Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Policing and Transit in BC - a proposal to swap who looks after them

Today we had the province release their response to the independent review of transit.    Both the report and the response were not addressing the core issue in my mind and that is one of who should have jurisdiction.    I think the time has come for BC to consider not only transit but policing and decide which level of government should be handling which area of authority.

We have issues in many parts of BC with having police forces that are balkanized because of municipal boundaries.   Policing in BC falls on local government and in most cases is one of the single largest budget items they have but realistically policing is something that needs to be taken on by the province and not local governments.   Policing being looked after by local governments is an accidental hold over from the 19th century when the police were really a publicly funded security force to protect property.

At the moment local governments have a responsibility for the police but do not really have the sort of effective control that is needed for good management of resources.   The province retains a role in police oversight as well but has no clear control of management.

Transit on the other hand fits nicely with the mandate of local governments.   Transit demand fits nicely with the geography of a regional district.    Transit needs to be closely integrated with local government land use planning.   It is only local governments that have the on ground knowledge needed to know where and what type of transit is needed.   And finally transit is a crucial part of local government transportation management.

At the moment we have BC Transit which is a provincial agency that does not answer to local government.   BC Transit does not view itself as a tool that exists to help municipalities to govern it in fact has a provincial mandate that is supposed to fulfill.

Here is my suggestion, have the province take on all policing in BC meanwhile wind up BC Transit and allow each regional district to manage their own transit system as they see fit.

When you look at the costs of each, the shift would move roughly comparable costs from one level of government to the other.   You can work it out so that transition is revenue neutral for the both sides of the equation.

For BC this would create a much more integrated police force in the province and would allow for more specialized services at a lower cost.   It would make the connection between the police and the Solicitor General a clear line of responsibility.   It would also make the police provincial civil servants if one were to no longer use the RCMP.  

For local governments it would mean having complete control over an important tool needed to manage growth and traffic and finally transit would become one more tool available to achieve this and not be
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