The following was first posted here December 19, 2012. It is a reminder that TransLink is not always aligned with serving British Columbian workers’ long term interests, despite the present position of trade unions representing transit workers.
Do you use electricity, live in a space that attracts property tax, purchase motor fuel or pay fees to park your chariot or ride transit after after actually paying a fare? Well, if you do any of those things, you’re putting money in the bank accounts of TransLink.
However, while the transit agency is eager to put its hands into each and every one of our pockets, it’s not so keen on spending that money in British Columbia. Spending that might create jobs, as in shipyards that may or may not, eventually, someday, build navy ships, if F35’s don’t empty the armed forces budgets first.
The Seabus vessels have been cost effective successes and long-time symbols of west coast industrial capability but the TransLink board decided to hire Damen Shipyards Group of The Netherlands to build a replacement vessel, at a cost of $25 million. That price is 75% more than original cost of the locally built MV Burrard Beaver, price adjusted for inflation. Also, there was no announcement about fuelling the new SeaBus with natural gas, something that should have be a no-brainer in this gas-rich province. Norwegian operators are not reticent about using this fuel. Read Reinventing the wheel, timidly.
After the TransLink decision, I did note the failure of Premier Photo-Op and her Jobs Plan entourage to hold a celebration of the award of an actual contract to build an actual ship, in the Netherlands. She was more than willing to take credit for possible BC shipyard spending by the federal government so why not the same for spending of the transit agency created by her administration.
|Premier Photo-Op addresses a character from central casting|
Once, the SeaBus vessels were proof of BC’s design and manufacturing prowess. The all-aluminum catamarans were the first of their kind anywhere in the world. Each of the two ships cost $3.7 million in 1976, $14.25 million in today’s dollars. Transit officials came here from all over to examine this highly efficient people mover.
Perhaps because it was an initiative of the Dave Barrett government, a Vancouver Sun columnist called the SeaBus project “a great civil service boondoggle.” It was no boondoggle. The entire project has been undeniably successful and 25 years passed before a vessel missed a single day of service. Operators claimed 99.993% reliability. Despite 35 years of service MV Burrard Beaver continues dependable operations day after day hauling thousands of passengers in comfort and safety.
The TransLink board is populated entirely by affluent dilettantes, who don’t worry about where next month’s rent money is coming from. Jobs? Most of the directors are collecting remuneration from numerous sources, many of them funded by taxpayers. Too bad there is so little commitment to creating employment for British Columbia trades people.
Here is a list of TransLink diectors, not exactly representative of the community it allegedly serves. Note the absence of people representing labour, community groups or, gasp, transit users.
- Nancy Olewiler, board chair – faculty member, Simon Fraser University;
- James Bruce, board vice-chair – investment manager;
- Robin Chakrabarti, investment manager;
- Rick Christiaanse, GM at Glentel, wireless retailer;
- Lorraine Cunningham, ship broker, agent and itinerant board member;
- John Dawson, accountant and investment manager;
- Barry Forbes, credit union CEO;
- Sarah Goodman, VP Tides Canada;
- Howard Nemtin, real estate developer;
- Don Rose, lawyer specialized in resource industries;
- Marcella Szel, former CNR VP, another itinerant board member;
A reader’s comment to this article recognizes the multiplier effect of spending. It is an important issue when government or consumers consider purchasing locally created goods and materials versus the import of finished goods. From a helpful British site, Economics online, we have The multiplier effect:
“Every time there is an injection of new demand into the circular flow there is likely to be a multiplier effect. This is because an injection of extra income leads to more spending, which creates more income, and so on. The multiplier effect refers to the increase in final income arising from any new injection of spending.
“…It is important to remember that when income is spent, this spending becomes someone else’s income, and so on. ..For example, if 80% of all new income in a given period of time is spent on local products, the marginal propensity to consume would be 80/100, which is 0.8.
“Hence, if consumers spend 80% and save 20% of every $1 of extra income, the multiplier is 5, which means that every $1 of new income generates $5 of extra income.”
Potentially, local manufacture of a new SeaBus at $25 million, could add more than $100 million in spending to the BC economy. That would depend on the actual multiplier effect and the proportion of goods and services originating here.
Nevertheless, if TransLink thinks they can save 8% buying overseas, they have no understanding of first year economics. A cynic might imagine other reasons for sourcing large acquisitions overseas. It’s some BC Liberals do frequently.