Feb 9,2005

Stop beating up on province, mayor tells council

By Leneen Robb - Staff Reporter - Now News

Council votes to ask MLAs to intervene on SkyTrain funding

Coquitlam's mayor told his councillors Monday to stop trying to get an answer from the province on the issue of SkyTrain funding - or to risk jeopardizing negotiations over the Riverview Hospital lands.

"There is a letter on record stating what the provincial government is going to give TransLink for this system," Mayor Jon Kingsbury said at Monday's meeting, referring to the proposed tram-style rapid transit line planned for Port Moody and Coquitlam.

Kingsbury said a letter council sent the province earlier, requesting a share of its $2-billion budget surplus to fund SkyTrain to the Tri-Cities, is "sitting on somebody's desk." A response, he said, is unlikely.

"Being in the political venue three months before a provincial election, I can assure you what's going to happen to it," he said of the letter. "It's probably been filed."

He then urged councillors, who were preparing to vote on a motion to have local MLAs intervene on the city's behalf to get a firm answer from the province on SkyTrain funding, to back off.

"We can keep up the harangue and keep up the publicity and do that, but I have to go to the province and ask and beg them to deal with us on the Riverview lands," he said.

"If you want to keep beating up on the province and you want to negotiate on the Riverview site and try and make a deal with them on that, I think you're sending a really difficult message."

Despite Kingsbury's warning, council voted in favour of "immediately" asking the four local MLAs to intervene on the issue.

Coun. Diane Thorne, who has been pushing for an answer for months, said the local MLAs should "at the very least, get us a letter that says, 'No, kiss off.'"

She called the lack of a response to a motion, then a letter, then a series of phone calls the city manager made to the province "too insulting."

Coun. Maxine Wilson agreed.

"They've been strangely silent," she said of local MLAs. "They should be stating publicly what their position is and what they're doing to support us."

Kingsbury, the sole council member to speak out against the motion, said he opposes it because, "I don't want SkyTrain. I think it's the ugliest bloody thing in the world."

The mayor has been a strong supporter of a tram-style system - which would be less expensive, but also slower than SkyTrain - since returning from a fact-finding mission to Europe to study rapid transit technology.

He said recently that TransLink, which has approved the cheaper system, is already preparing to hire a project manager to oversee its implementation.

The issue has been so contentious that councillors held a public meeting to explain why they told TransLink they supported the tram-style system, after years of favouring SkyTrain.

Since that meeting, some councillors have again begun lobbying for SkyTrain.