New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote is hoping to take on a leadership role with the new Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation when it gets back on track this month.
The Mayors' Council, which includes representatives from municipalities throughout the region, is responsible for considering TransLink plans dealing with transportation service levels, major capital projects, regional funding and borrowing limits. Mayors who were elected in the Oct. 20 municipal elections will attend the next Mayors’ Council meeting on Nov. 15 at TransLink’s head office in New Westminster.
“I am going to be considering putting my name forward for chair of the Mayors’ Council at TransLink,” Cote told the Record. “I have served as chair of a few subcommittees of the Mayors’ Council. Certainly, I would consider myself as a strong advocate for public transit in the region, and have really enjoyed the opportunity to serve on the Mayors’ Council. I would love the opportunity to be able to take on a leadership role on that front.”
Cote, now serving his second term as mayor after three terms as a councillor, is now one of the longest-serving mayors in the region. A large number of mayors in Metro Vancouver didn’t seek re-election, and incumbent mayors in Burnaby (Derek Corrigan), Pitt Meadows (John Becker) and Port Moody (Mike Clay) were all defeated.
Cote said he’s already spoken to a lot of the returning mayors, as well as some of the new mayors in Metro Vancouver, about regional issues.
“I think we will see what happens on the 15th, but it’s definitely an area that I’ve got a lot of interest and background in. I think I’d be able to represent the region well in terms of how we move forward,” he said of the Mayors’ Council. “I think TransLink is actually in a really good position to see some significant investments in public transit across the region and I think it’s going to be a really exciting time for the Mayors’ Council to start to see some real advancements of the plans that the region has been working on for decades.”
Cote is now the fifth longest-serving mayor in the region, behind Malcolm Brodie (Richmond), Richard Stewart (Coquitlam), Jack Froese (Township of Langley) and Doug McCallum, who served as Surrey’s mayor until 2005 and was re-elected on Oct. 20. Soon after being sworn in, Surrey city council voted in favour of stopping work on the $1.65-billion light-rail line and working with TransLink on a SkyTrain extension.
In June, the Mayors’ Council approved Phase 2 of its 10-year plan, which included a new street-level Newton-Guildford light rail line.
“I think the vast majority of the mayors’ 10-year plan remains intact and we are going to be able to move forward, but there’s no doubt the change in direction from the new city council in Surrey is going to require a discussion around the Mayors’ Council table about what do we implement in terms of rapid transit south of the Fraser River,” Cote said. “I think that will no doubt be one of the first conversations that the new Mayors’ Council is going to have to grapple with. I think the first major decision that is going to come forward to the Mayors’ Council is to decide whether we actually stop work on the light rail project to Guildford and Newton. A significant amount of money has already been invested in those projects, but I think there does need to be a recognition that the new Surrey city council is no longer supportive of that project, and I think it would be very difficult for the region to move ahead with a billion-dollar rapid transit project in a community that no longer wanted to host or cooperate in the building of that project.”
In light of the resolution passed by Surrey city, TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said TransLink was pausing work on the Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT project and suspending a request for qualifications process that sought bids from contractors to design, build and operate the LRT project.
According to Cote, TransLink estimates it’s spent approximately $50 million on the LRT project so far.