How many executives does it take to run Translink, let alone screw in a lightbulb?
It's generally common knowledge that over in Victoria there's a crackdown underway on spending, including a freeze on consultants, and even talk of layoffs. Over in the City of Vancouver a core services review is being undertaken by the City Manager's office. Now comes word that major government-subsidized corporations such as BC Ferries and Translink are coming under the microscope.
Translink has conducted an ambitious marketing campaign, including web surveys, social media and radio, print and TV advertising to make the public aware that they have money problems. Does spending a TON of money to tell everyone you have no money make sense? Apparently it does to Translink.
Translink could use a little good PR. It was only last year they were taking a beating for giving their board of directors a 500% raise. But a closer look at their financial statements, such as this 2008 filing on the Translink website, indicates many ways that the South Coast's transportation authority might want to shore up its costs.
At first blush you can see that there is a very heavy reliance on consultants. The top public relations firms such as Wilcox and National are being put to use, as well as polling companies Mustel and Ipsos-Reid at work. Law firm Farris, Vaughn, Wills & Murphy were paid out over $30 million, and even the Bread Garden did alright at $50,000. It's probably all on the up'n'up, but a lot of scrutiny is coming to the company that runs most of the Lower Mainland's transportation infrastructure.
Translink's money woes have resulted in some awkward political maneuvers in recent months, such as Mayor Gregor Robertson's failed pitch at getting carbon tax dollars, or Surrey Mayor Watts' more coordinated municipal coalition.
The same 2008 financial statement shows that Translink staff are very well-compensated, with nearly four-to-one staff making over $75,000 vs under, and an eye-popping number of staff making six figures.
But the question that might want to be asked is why so many executives? Does an organization this size require thirteen big kahunas, most of them vice-presidents?
We've heard reports that the cost of running a bus in Metro Vancouver is as high as $20 per hour higher than in Victoria. Now that the Province is stepping in, you can pretty much bet there won't be anymore ads or surveys coming soon to tell us money's too tight for Translink.