Kevin MILLS and Natasha JONES
The Township of Langley should seriously consider pulling out of Metro Vancouver Regional District and TransLink, and think about closer ties with Abbotsford, Mayor Jack Froese said on Wednesday.
And Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman would welcome a chance to discuss a partnership with his neighbour to the west.
Abbotsford has been told by the province that it cannot leave the Fraser Valley Regional District, as requested. Instead, the city was given the option to stay with the FVRD or find other communities willing to join them to create a new regional district.
The Langley mayor’s statement has created an opportunity for discussion.
Froese’s comment came after TransLink announced it would postpone expansion plans south of the Fraser River, sounding for now the death knell of a rapid bus service from the new park and ride at 200 Street and 86 Avenue to the Lougheed SkyTrain station.
When the news was announced, Froese said that confirmed the township’s worse fears.
“The mayors’ council has done an about-face from what they voted for last year,” Froese said.
“Langley Township and other communities on this side of the river support TransLink by paying for services that benefit all other areas of the Lower Mainland. But when it comes to our turn, we have the rug pulled out from under us.”
Froese is a member of the newly formed South of the Fraser Mayors’ Committee, which is working to obtain the transportation infrastructure needed by its member municipalities to focus attention on the area’s unique transportation needs. He was one of three mayors from south of the Fraser River to oppose the vote.
Froese confirmed he has been talking to Mayor Banman about the feasibility of forging closer ties.
“It’s something that doesn’t hurt looking at,” Froese said.
Banman also confirmed that some “very informal” discussions have taken place. He said it makes sense to talk to Langley which, “has some rights to be unhappy with Metro.”
Banman feels it is his job to examine all the options available to Abbotsford. The only one he won’t examine is joining Metro.
“That’s not going to happen while I’m sitting in the chair.”
Another option, according to Banman, could be to make the FVRD bigger by adding Langley.
He wants to have a discussion, confirm the data and then hold a public forum to see what the communities want.
“I’m sure that the residents of Langley would be thrilled to reduce their gas tax by 17 cents a litre,” said Banman.
He said Mission would also be welcome to take part in the discussions.
There is nothing wrong with talking, he said. “It’s called planning.”