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The trouble with Translink? Assessing the forms of accountability in use within a Canadian public transit… Gardiner, Max 2017

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THE TROUBLE WITH TRANSLINK? ASSESSING THE FORMS OF ACCOUNTABILITY IN USE WITHIN A CANADIAN PUBLIC TRANSIT AGENCY   by  Max Gardiner  B.A. (Hons.), The University of British Columbia, 2016      A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF   MASTER OF ARTS   in   THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE AND POSTDOCTORAL STUDIES   (Political Science)        THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA  (Vancouver)    December 2017    © Max Gardiner, 2017 ii  Abstract  This thesis analyzes the forms of organizational accountability used within the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority, a public transit agency better known as TransLink. It considers whether accountability is used as a virtue within TransLink, and also considers whether accountability is used as a mechanism within the agency. The use of accountability as a virtue entails the provision and availability of information about an organization’s behaviour and its operational outcomes. The use of accountability as a mechanism involves systems of obligation within an organization that include possibilities for sanctioning actors based on their behaviour, or otherwise obligating changes within an organization in response to its performance. An overview of TransLink’s history and governance structure is first provided. A review of some of the literature on public sector accountability then follows. The thesis then develops an identification strategy for determining what evidence would be consistent with the use of accountability as a virtue and as a mechanism within TransLink. Ultimately, this thesis concludes that at TransLink accountability is used as a virtue, but not as a mechanism. A major implication of this accountability arrangement for residents of Metro Vancouver is that TransLink makes lots of information available about its operations and strategies. While on the other hand, no strong accountability institutions can easily compel TransLink to make major changes to itself. This thesis suggests that establishing institutions and procedures that promulgate the use of accountability as a mechanism within TransLink would help to make it an overall more accountable and better public organization. To this end, TransLink should be an organization where accountability is used as both a virtue and as a mechanism.   iii  Lay Summary  This thesis looks at TransLink to determine how the idea of accountability is used within its organization. This work outlines and compares two ways that accountability can be used: as a virtue, and as a mechanism. An organization using accountability as a virtue will make information about itself readily available and easily accessible. An organization using accountability as a mechanism will have some institutionalized way(s) of being held to account for the information it provides and can be forced to make changes to itself by outside actors. Analyzing how accountability is used within TransLink will show that within the agency accountability is used as a virtue, but not as a mechanism. Based on this finding, this thesis suggests that accountability should be used as a mechanism in conjunction with its use as a virtue within TransLink.              iv  Preface This thesis is an original, unpublished intellectual product of the author, Max Gardiner  The opinion polling data on the 2015 Metro Vancouver Transportation and Transit Plebiscite used in Chapter 1 was produced by Insights West.                   v  Table of Contents Abstract ........................................................................................................................................... ii  Lay Summary ................................................................................................................................. iii  Preface............................................................................................................................................ iv  Table of Contents .............................................................................................................................v  List of Tables ................................................................................................................................. vi  List of Abbreviations .................................................................................................................... vii  Acknowledgements ...................................................................................................................... viii  Dedication ...................................................................................................................................... ix  Chapter 1: Introduction ....................................................................................................................1  Chapter 2: TransLink’s History and Governance ............................................................................5  Chapter 3: Defining Accountability ...............................................................................................15  Chapter 4: Accountability as a Virtue and as a Mechanism ..........................................................21  Chapter 5: An Identification Strategy for Forms of Accountability ..............................................27  Chapter 6: Assessing the Use of Accountability Within TransLink ..............................................33  Chapter 7: Conclusion....................................................................................................................43  Works Cited ...................................................................................................................................46 vi  List of Tables Table 1 Four-Quadrant Categorization ...............................................................................28  Table 2 Two-Quadrant Categorization ...............................................................................29                                          vii  List of Abbreviations   FIPPA ......................................................... Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act GVRD ..................................................................................... Greater Vancouver Regional District GVTA ........................................................................ Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority GVTAA............................................................... Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Act SCBCTA .................................................. South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority SCBCTAA .........................................South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act                                    viii  Acknowledgements  I would like to thank the entire UBC Department of Political Science for being my second home for the last three-and-a-half years.  I owe particular thanks to my supervisor Dr. Allan Tupper for his encouragement to pursue this project and for his insightful thoughts and comments at every step along the way. As well, his understanding of, and compassion for, the challenges I’ve faced have meant more than any words could ever do justice. I also would like to thank Dr. Arjun Chowdhury for his work as the second reader of this thesis and for his seemingly inexhaustible patience while I first ironed out the wrinkles in this project. This is a very big victory!  Lastly, I would also like to thank my family, as well as my friends at UBC and beyond for helping keep life fun. A special thanks goes to the C407 regulars, who were always down to chat or help talk through an idea, and who kept my home away from home a place I wanted to be.           ix     For Mom and Dad.                    1  Chapter 1: Introduction  Every day in Metro Vancouver hundreds of thousands of people rely on TransLink buses, ferries, trains, roads, bridges, and bike paths to get themselves around the region. In 2016, this amounted to almost 385 million boarded passengers across TransLink’s scheduled transit services (TransLink, 2016 Annual Statutory Report, 2017, 5). These daily journeys highlight TransLink’s importance to a major Canadian metropolitan area. Established in 1999 and legally known as the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (SCBCTA), TransLink is a public agency that with the help of its operating subsidiaries, contractors, and local partners is tasked with “planning, financing and managing” Metro Vancouver’s massive multimodal transportation network in a way “that protects the environment and supports the economic and social objectives of the region” (TransLink, 2015 Annual Report, 2016, 4). Between its bus, SeaBus, SkyTrain, West Coast Express, and HandyDART services; as well as the Transit Police and the cycling, road, and bridge infrastructure under its jurisdiction, TransLink is ubiquitous across the Lower Mainland. For this reason, understanding how the idea of accountability is used within TransLink has a high degree of importance for the region and its residents. Considering whether accountability is used as a virtue, establishing a degree of organizational transparency; and whether it is used as a mechanism, creating obligations to implement changes within its organization, is a meaningful determination to make for understanding the ways that residents can and do interact with TransLink, and how the agency operates.   In the context of the Canadian public transit sector, TransLink is a unique organization in two principal ways. First, its mandate stretches beyond the normal role of a public transit agency, being “the first North American transportation authority to be responsible for the planning, financing, and managing of all public transit in addition to major regional roads and bridges” 2  (TransLink, About Us, 2017). Beyond the typical management and operation of public transit vehicles, TransLink is also responsible for several major bridges,1 cycling and pedestrian infrastructure,2 and over six-hundred kilometers of the region’s Major Road Network (TransLink, Major Road Network & Bridges, 2017). Secondly, TransLink is made unique by its governance structure. As laid out by its governing legislation, the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act (SCBCTAA), TransLink has an incredibly complex governance structure that includes multiple levels of government and several interconnected decision making bodies that must all work together to provide direction and oversight to the agency. TransLink’s uniqueness, combined with its regional importance, makes it an intriguing organization to study on multiple fronts.  This thesis is concerned with assessing how accountability is used within TransLink. The inspiration for this research is rooted in TransLink’s short but contentious history. For much of TransLink’s existence, accountability has been a central concern. In 1999, the creation of TransLink was intended, among other things, to “secure good accountability” in transportation in the Lower Mainland (Auditor General of British Columbia 2001, 1). In 2007 the provincial government restructured TransLink to make it more accountable “to taxpayers and users” (TransLink Governance Review Panel 2007, 1) and 2014 saw further reforms made to the agency. Accountability issues also came to a head during the 2015 Metro Vancouver Transportation and Transit Plebiscite, which saw the region’s voters soundly reject a proposed 0.5% sales tax increase to fund various TransLink-led initiatives across the region.3 The leading                                                           1 TransLink is responsible for the Knight Street, Pattullo, Golden Ears, and Westham Island Bridges, as well as the Canada Line Bike and pedestrian bridge (TransLink, Major Road Network & Bridges, 2017). 2 Cycling infrastructure such as the Central Valley Greenway and the BC Parkway. 3 The proposed tax increase was defeated by a 62% to 38% margin overall, with only three of twenty-three municipalities (Bowen Island, Electoral Areas ‘A’, and Anmore) voting more than 50% “Yes” (Elections BC 2015, 22). 3  cause of opposition to the proposal, cited by 76% of “No” voters, was found to be a lack of confidence in TransLink to properly implement the proposed projects (Insights West 2015). After the Plebiscite, TransLink’s new CEO Kevin Desmond tacitly acknowledged the role that TransLink’s accountability played in the Plebiscite’s defeat, stating that a “rebuild” of TransLink’s public perception was necessary. Moreover, Desmond committed to “changing the way Metro Vancouver looks at TransLink” (TransLink, 2015 Annual Report, 2016, 15). Any such project begins with understanding how exactly accountability is currently used within the agency.  By surveying the literature on public sector accountability and then applying it to the TransLink case, this thesis argues that within its organization, accountability is used as a virtue but not as a mechanism. This distinction means that TransLink makes lots of information about its operations and behaviour available to the public. However, regardless of the amount or quality of the information available, little can or will be done in response to any organizational information or performance that the public deems unsatisfactory. Residents of Metro Vancouver can easily find out what’s going on at TransLink, but they cannot easily force TransLink to make changes in areas of public dissatisfaction. Demonstrating that TransLink uses accountability in a virtuous form, but not in a mechanical one, will lead to a better understanding of how the agency operates, how it handles its relationship with the public, and how internal factors in TransLink’s organization have made its accountability such a recurrent and heated topic of debate.   In order to make my argument several steps will be necessary. First, I provide an overview of TransLink’s history and governance structure. My purpose is to fully contextualize TransLink as it exists today and to review the scope and complexity of its operations. The second task is to review the term “accountability” and to assess its expanded usage in modern politics 4  and political science. Third, I will define my key terms: virtuous accountability and mechanical accountability. Fourth, I will develop an identification strategy that evaluates how accountability is being used within TransLink. This identification strategy will determine what observations and evidence I will consider to be consistent with the use of accountability as a virtue and as a mechanism, and will also outline where I intend to locate these pieces of evidence within TransLink. Lastly, I will apply this identification strategy to three organizational locations within TransLink to show how accountability is used as a virtue, and not as a mechanism. Considering my findings, I conclude with a brief discussion of what could and should be done at TransLink to improve its accountability.               5  Chapter 2: TransLink’s History and Governance  How did TransLink come to be the organization that it is today? How does TransLink operate? What is interesting about its governance? How is TransLink organized to carry out its complex role in the Lower Mainland? Three major characteristics of TransLink stand out and inform its understanding and use of accountability. First, TransLink’s organizational structure comprises three main internal organizations that represent local, municipal, and provincial levels of government, as well as the private sector. Second, TransLink’s structure provides no direct linkages to the public. For example, no members of TransLink’s Board of Directors are directly elected by the public. Third, the three principal organizations that make up TransLink’s governance structure, the Mayors’ Council, the Board of Directors, and the Independent Screening Panel, are all connected in a way that creates a considerable number of interdependencies, which, seen together, makes information sharing a necessity for governing TransLink. These three aspects of TransLink’s governance structure frame much of the discussion about how the agency attempts to ensure that accountability is present within its organization and what form this accountability takes when in use.  Before TransLink was established in 1999, public transportation in the Lower Mainland fell under the auspices of BC Transit, a provincial crown corporation. This made Vancouver “one of the few regions in North America where transit was operated by the provincial government, rather than at the local level” (Wales 2008, 11). This arrangement was “unusual” and also led to “anomalies” such as the body responsible for setting fare levels having “no direct responsibility for costs” (Auditor General of British Columbia 2001, 9). Under this setup, responsibility for Greater Vancouver’s transit system ultimately resided with the Vancouver unit 6  of BC Transit, one of three such units within the crown corporation (Wales 2008, 11).4 A major issue with this arrangement was chronic instability with regards to funding. “Instead of having a stable income, [BC Transit] was required to go to the provincial government each and every year” to request funds, something that resulted in “fluctuating and unpredictable revenue, making implementation of long-term plans effectively impossible” (Ibid.). Service levels in Vancouver had to “accommodate the budget established by the BC Transit board, and ultimately by the Province” (Auditor General of British Columbia 2001, 9). The weaknesses of this arrangement with BC Transit led to calls for a transportation agency that would be focused solely on the Lower Mainland, administered locally rather than in Victoria, and most importantly, able to raise its own funds.  Compounding these desires was the pressing regional issue of transportation. As the turn of the century approached, the transportation situation in the Lower Mainland was bleak. “Greater Vancouver had the highest per capita automobile ownership in Canada,” with the number of registered vehicles increasing “at nearly three per hour” and public surveys consistently rating transportation as “the top issue in the region” (Wales 2008, 9). TransLink was born out of the idea that tackling the region’s transportation issues demanded a new governance structure with wide reaching powers and responsibilities. The ambitious goal put forward by regional leaders was “for transit to achieve an 18% share of peak hour commuters by 2021, a very significant increase for the roughly 12% share that it had in 1995” and a goal that would require “more than doubling the market share growth rate over what BC Transit planned to deliver” (Auditor General of British Columbia 2001, 9). The new organization would, unlike its predecessor BC Transit, have roles beyond public transit per se. TransLink’s founders created an                                                           4 The two other units were responsible for Victoria’s transit system, and for the myriad of smaller community systems scattered across the province (Wales 2008, 11).  7  agency with powers over all aspects of public transportation as well as major roads. A move intended “to bring dramatic enhancements to the region as a whole” (Wales 2008, 9). After lengthy negotiations between local and provincial levels of government, and extensive public consultations, the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Act (GVTAA) became law on July 30, 1998 (30). On April 1, 1999, TransLink, then legally known as the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority (GVTA), was officially launched at a ceremony in Burnaby (9), marking the start of “a new approach to moving people around the region” (27).  The first incarnation of the TransLink Board was made up of “15 elected officials, including mayors, councillors, and MLAs who represented communities throughout the region” (Wales 2008, 19). For funding, the Province agreed to the give the GVTA six cents of tax room from the provincial fuel tax, and also agreed to hand over parking sales tax revenue (Ibid.). In addition, an annual vehicle levy was proposed “as the primary strategy” to fund service expansions (33). Though the vehicle levy was approved by the GVTA and GVRD Boards, the provincial government eventually quashed the proposal. This left a nascent TransLink having to claw back recent service improvements and unable to follow through on many of the initiatives laid out in its inaugural five-year plan (35). These events of TransLink’s first two years set much of the dour tone surrounding the agency. This first iteration of TransLink’s governance structure would last for close to eight years, all the while plagued by many organizational issues. The core of TransLink’s current governance structure came into being in 2007 as a result of a set of reforms spurred by the provincial government’s sense that “decision making at the TransLink Board” had become “difficult, slow and marked by the division of local political interests rather than regional consensus building” (TransLink Governance Review Panel 2007, 8  1). A three-person panel5 tasked with addressing the issue delivered three main recommendations for reform. These recommendations included a “new Council of Mayors who will be accountable for approving TransLink’s 10-Year Strategic Plans, including revenue measures,” “a new, non-political TransLink Board of 11 directors” that was to be “responsible for planning, constructing and operating the regional transportation systems,” and a new, independent TransLink Commissioner to oversee fare increases and provide a general level of oversight to operations (2). The Review Panel believed that its recommendations would help transition TransLink into an agency with a greater degree of accountability to the public (Ibid.). On November 29, 2007, the legislature passed these reforms into law, transforming TransLink from the GVTA into its current legal form, the SCBCTA (Wales 2008, 77). The governance model created by the 2007 reforms remains the core of the governance structure in use at TransLink in 2017. However, in 2014 a significant set of reforms were passed that among other things decreased the number of Board seats that the Council was entitled to appoint from nine to seven (Mayors’ Council 2014, 5) and dissolved the office of the TransLink Commissioner, transferring most of its powers to the Mayors’ Council (TransLink 2017, Governance Model, Sec. 8; Mayors’ Council 2014, 8). The impetus for these changes again revolved around improving TransLink’s accountability. In 2012 the Mayors’ Council commissioned a report into TransLink’s governance that evaluated the agency’s structure and compared it in a global context (Mayors’ Council 2013, 1). The report concluded that TransLink’s governance structure was “unique in the world and not in a good way, in that governance arrangements in other ‘leader’ regions, while showing a considerable diversity, have                                                           5 The panel included former City of Langley Mayor Marlene Grinnell, former Deputy Minister of Transportation Dan Doyle, and Wayne Duzita who had “35 years of experience in business and all aspects of commercial goods transportation” (TransLink Governance Review Panel 2007, 7). 9  common features to ensure accountability, effectiveness and efficiency in decision-making and service delivery that are not found in Metro Vancouver” (i). Harshly, it stated that the arrangements at TransLink were “less than ideal” in a number of criteria, and that accountability, “the most critical” aspect of transportation governance, was “almost completely missing from the present arrangements” (Ibid.). The legal basis for the 2014 reforms was introduced in the legislature on March 27, 2014, and once passed, brought about TransLink’s current tripartite governance structure that has persisted to 2017. As the three principal bodies behind TransLink, the Mayors’ Council, the TransLink Board of Directors, and the Independent Screening Panel are collectively tasked with a significant undertaking. Not only must this troika oversee and direct an organization that includes representation from public and private stakeholders, as well as local and provincial levels of government, they must do so in a way that satisfies a geographically diverse and sprawling region. Metro Vancouver’s geography is a factor that exacerbates transportation issues, something that makes TransLink’s role in the region even more important. Greater Vancouver is very much a city of bridges. Bisected by Burrard Inlet and the various arms of the Fraser River, most east-west and north-south movements throughout the region require crossing at least one waterway. The chokepoints created by these crossings put significant pressure on the regional transportation network, something that TransLink both has to navigate its services around and is meant to help alleviate. As well, Metro Vancouver’s population of 2.5 million is spread over a wide area, spanning almost three-thousand square-kilometers from Lions Bay in the north, to White Rock in the south, and Langley and Maple Ridge in the east. The geographical factors present in the Lower Mainland help to shape the immense task faced by the three bodies that make up TransLink’s governance and also contributes to the agency’s 10  functional uniqueness, covering such a vast and dispersed population connected by numerous transportation bottlenecks in the form of bridges and tunnels. TransLink’s uniqueness can further be seen by looking at the roles that each of these bodies have and the connections that exist between them.  The first of these bodies is the Mayors’ Council. As the name implies, the Mayors’ Council builds representation from the local level of government into TransLink. The Council comprises the mayors of Metro Vancouver’s twenty-one municipalities, the Chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation, and the elected representative of Electoral Area ‘A’ (TransLink, Governance Model, 2017, sec. 3). The Council has a variety of roles, including: the appointment of seven of the eleven TransLink Board members, approving strategic plans and short-term fare increases, setting compensation levels for TransLink executives, and signing off on changes to TransLink’s “customer satisfaction survey processes” and “customer complaint processes” (Ibid.). An important feature of the Council is that except on certain matters such as Board appointments, votes in “relation to any issues […] on regional transportation” are weighted by population (Government of British Columbia, SCBCTAA, 2017, §211(2)). This means that while in theory all twenty-three municipalities are represented in TransLink’s governance, Vancouver and Surrey wield substantial power in its decsion making.   The role of the Mayors’ Council in the approval of TransLink policies and the appointment of the TransLink Board beings to highlight the interconnectedness between the three bodies that make up TransLink’s governance structure. The Mayors’ Council, the TransLink Board, and the Independent Screening Panel heavily rely on each other and it is necessary for information to be able to flow between these bodies so that things such as strategies and policies can be scrutinized and approved. The shape of the Mayors’ Council also 11  highlights the lack of direct democratic oversight at TransLink. The 2007 Governance Review Panel intended that the creation of the Mayors’ Council would ensure a level of democratic oversight as “[t]axpayers will know that, when they vote for their Mayor, they are also voting for their representative on the Council of Mayors” (TransLink Governance Review Panel 2007, 16). However, the key issue in this vein that degrades the level of accountability provided has to do with the nature of elections. Elections are “very blunt instruments for holding politicians to account” and do not necessarily signal a voter’s intention. “Citizens typically get just one opportunity to vote […] every four years or so; and that vote is supposed to capture their reactions to a whole host of policies across all domains, over an extended period” (Franklin, Soroka and Wlezien 2014, 389). Outside of single-issue voters, mayors are not elected solely for their stances on TransLink, nor are they exclusively elected to provide oversight of TransLink. Even if a voter disagrees with a mayoral candidate’s position(s) on TransLink, they may still vote for them for a variety of reasons, such as perceiving the alternatives as being worse (390). As an example, in 2014 Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson won re-election on a platform that included support for a “Yes” vote in the upcoming Transportation and Transit Plebiscite (Vision Vancouver 2014, 4), yet 51% of Vancouver voters voted “No” less than a year later (Elections BC 2015, 22). Though the members of the Mayors’ Council are elected, they are not done so solely on their promises or performance regarding TransLink. For these reasons, the Mayors’ Council is not an effective tool for providing democratic oversight over TransLink.  TransLink’s Board of Directors is the second important body involved in the agency’s governance. The eleven-person Board ensures that the provincial government is firmly incorporated into the agency’s governance. Post-2014, the TransLink Board comprises seven appointees of the Mayors’ Council, the Chair and Vice Chair of the Mayors’ Council, and up to 12  two appointees from the provincial government. Important from an accountability standpoint is that once appointed, board members cannot be removed except by a decision of the Board itself (Government of British Columbia, SCBCTAA, 2017, §187). The Board is tasked with most of the everyday functions of TransLink including senior appointments, “[supervising] the management affairs of TransLink,” approving annual budgets, submitting planning documents and strategic plans to the Mayors’ Council for approval, and proposing changes to customer surveys to the Mayors’ Council. The Board also publishes annual reports and holds public meetings (TransLink, Governance Model, 2017, sec. 4).   The structure and role of the TransLink Board further highlights the connections that exist between the various bodies involved in TransLink’s governance structure. Not only does the TransLink Board consist of appointees of the Province and the Mayors’ Council, but it also passes large amounts of information and decision making upwards to the Council for scrutiny and final approval. As well, the inability of the Mayors’ Council to remove a board member once appointed further highlights a lack of direct democratic accountability within TransLink’s governance structure. These interconnections further help to establish TransLink as a unique and immensely complex organization that attempts to accommodate a diverse set of actors while at the same time trying to achieve many important outcomes that can impact each actor differently.  The existence of the Independent Screening Panel adds another layer of complexity, depth, and interconnectedness to TransLink’s governance, and at the same time further distances TransLink from having any degree of effective democratic oversight. The Independent Screening Panel comprises five people, one each appointed by the Greater Vancouver Gateway Society, the Organization of Chartered Professional Accountants of BC, the Mayors’ Council, the minister responsible for TransLink, and the Vancouver Board of Trade. Annually, the five individuals on 13  the Panel create a short-list of candidates to fill upcoming vacancies on the TransLink Board. Once complete, the Panel sends this list to the Mayors’ Council who must make their seven appointments to the Board from this list (TransLink, Governance Model, 2017, sec 2.). Through its composition, the Screening Panel builds a private sector presence into TransLink.  The Independent Screening Panel further highlights the interconnectedness in TransLink’s governance structure and how this web of connections requires that information be shared between bodies. The Screening Panel needs to know the upcoming vacancies on the Board, and the Mayors’ Council needs to know who the Screening Panel has pre-approved for appointment. The existence of the Panel also has implications for TransLink’s accountability. Its control over the list of candidates further removes the Mayors’ Council from a role of effective democratic oversight. Given that its options for Board appointments are extremely limited, it is difficult to hold the Mayors’ Council fully accountable for its choices, as it in fact doesn’t get to make much of a decision at all. This multi-step process for Board appointments shows just how complex TransLink is as an organization and also demonstrates it uniqueness in its incorporation of public and private actors, as well as local and provincial levels of government.   Together, the Mayors’ Council, the TransLink Board of Directors, and the Independent Screening Panel create a governance structure of remarkable depth, complexity, and interconnectedness. Tasked with overseeing an organization that serves a vast and diverse, yet geographically constrained area, the existence of these bodies and the connections between them help to make TransLink a functionally and structurally unique public organization. This structure, its dependence on the sharing of information, and its absence of any strong direct accountability provisions underpins my coming analysis of how accountability is used within TransLink. It also casts a strong reflection of Klijn and Koppenjan’s (2014) vision of a 14  “governance network” where there are “more or less stable patterns of social relations between mutually dependent actors, which form around a policy program and/or cluster of means and which are formed, maintained, and changed through a series of games” (242). It is within this organizational structure that it will be possible to observe evidence of how TransLink utilizes accountability as a virtue, but not as a mechanism.                   15   Chapter 3: Defining Accountability  This chapter reviews the existing literature on accountability and surveys some of the main accountability problems raised by TransLink. I present some of the common meanings associated with the term “accountability” and consider how the idea is commonly mobilized. I also reflect on how accountability can manifest itself within organizations.  The term “accountability” now has many meanings and wide-ranging implications for democratic governance and for public agencies such as TransLink. As one leading author put it: “Every newly edited volume of accountability – and even worse, each other individual chapters within these edited volumes” seem to use different definitions of accountability (Bovens 2010, 946). Some authors choose to mobilize the concept “very loosely,” while “others produce a more narrow definition” (947). This wide conceptual range means that “few of these definitions are fully compatible” (Ibid.). Thus, “although booming,” the intellectual field on accountability remains “highly fragmented and non-cumulative” (Bovens, Schillemans and Goodin 2014, 2). In this way, accountability has “notoriously” come to have many shades of meaning (Hood 2014, 603) and anyone who attempts to study it “will soon discover that it can mean many different things to many different people” (Bovens 2010, 946). These “chameleon-like” qualities (Mulgan 2000, 555) have blocked the development of “a distinct definition or model that captures what it means to be accountable or to hold someone to account” (Dubnick and Frederickson 2011, xiv) and have “prevented much empirical progress in the broad field of accountability studies” (Bovens 2010, 947).   The idea of “accountability” has deep roots, first appearing in English with its contemporary connotation around 1085 (Bovens, Schillemans and Goodin 2014, 3). Over a long 16  proceeding period “accountability” was a non-controversial, “culturally innocuous term” (Dubnick 2014, 24) essentially “contained to the areas of financial accounting and audit” (Mulgan 2003, 6). Starting in the 1960s “accountability” has since become an “iconic” concept (Bovens, Schillemans and Goodin 2014, 1) that could be considered a “cultural phenomenon” (Dubnick 2014, 30). Accountability now spans across a variety of scholarly disciplines, including: “political science, public administration, international relations, social psychology, constitutional law, and business administration” (Bovens, Schillemans and Goodin 2014, 1-2). Such wide intellectual interest, however, has produced no consensus on even the meaning and democratic functions of accountability.   The use of the term “accountability” has connotations for “good governance, transparency, equity, democracy, efficiency, responsiveness, responsibility, and integrity” (Bovens 2010, 946). Accountability is often used as “a hurrah-word, like ‘learning,’ ‘responsibility,’ or ‘solidarity’” that no one can easily oppose (Bovens 2007, 182). In this context, public organizations such as TransLink can seldom have enough accountability. However, some scholars have stressed potential downsides, that “too much emphasis on accountability may result in unintentional, but systematic, undermining of efficiency and effectiveness” (Halachmi 2014, 560), that “more accountability does not necessarily produce better governance” (Hood 2014, 604), and that “multiple contradictory accountabilities lead to bureaucratic dysfunction” (Ibid.). Despite this, accountability remains something of a benevolent concept for most organizations.  The mobilization of the idea of “accountability” often stresses sanctions for non-performance or negligence. The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics defines “accountability” as: “The requirement for representatives to answer to the represented on the disposal of their 17  powers and duties, act upon criticisms or requirements made of them, and accept (some) responsibility for failure, incompetence, or deceit” (McLean 1996, 1). Brenton (2015) echoes this association between the word “accountability” and meanings of ‘obligation’ and ‘punishment,’ seeing the meaning implied by the term “accountability” as being “a relationship between an account-holder (or principal) and accountor (agent), where the accountor has an obligation to the account holder and is subject to external scrutiny from the account-holder” (468). When imbued with meanings of obligation, an “accountability = punishment” equivalency can easily be established, based on the idea that “accountability” is achieved when there is an “opportunity to throw or vote the rascals out” (Bovens, Schillemans and Goodin 2014, 5) if the account-holder(s) conclude that the accountee(s) have acted wrongly. Thus, at a minimum, “accountability” is a two-sided coin. It involves both: an obligation for one actor to provide information to another, and an opportunity for the receiving actor to enact some sort of sanctions or punishments on the other should they be dissatisfied with what they’ve received. These two sides of accountability help to frame the major difference between accountability’s use as a virtue and its use as a mechanism.  There are two other important dimensions of “accountability” that are relevant to my evaluation of TransLink. The first is that accountability can manifest itself differently at different levels of an organization. Accountability can look very different at the ‘counter-level’ than in the executive boardroom. The second is that accountability can also flow in different directions. It can be both hierarchical, between superiors and underlings, and horizontal, between actors on somewhat equal levels where no one really has an upper hand.   Accountability has different levels and units of analysis. For this reason “[a]nalysis and evaluation of public accountability requires a specification of who is (or is supposed to be) 18  accountable to whom” (Gailmard 2014, 91). For one, it can be about individual decisions and behaviour. There is a specific type of accountability that exist, for example, at the level of interactions between a rider and bus driver. However, this is not the type or level of accountability that this thesis is concerned with. I am concerned with the type and level of accountability experienced by large, complex organizations such as TransLink in their relationships with the public as a whole. Thus, my argument about TransLink is not about the type of accountability that exists between a bus driver and a bus rider. Rather, it is about how TransLink as a complex public organization is held accountable to the public at-large that it serves and whose tax dollars fund its operations. Stone (1995) discusses how traditional manifestations of public accountability are “strongly informed by a particular set of institutional arrangements” that implicitly shape accountability into a concept that “is always a matter of interpersonal relationships” (508). This can be seen in an accountability arrangement such as ministerial responsibility where, at least in theory, accountability is rendered at the individual level with a minister responding to the opposition critic’s questions in parliament. In arguing that this individual-level type of accountability “is too narrow an understanding” for modern public organizations (509), Stone highlights the existence of literature that discusses how accountability can be realized at an organizational level. In their article looking at NASA in the aftermath of the Challenger Disaster, Romzek and Dubnick (1987) outline four accountability types that “offer legitimate means for managing institutional level expectations” (230). This helps to craft a broader perception of the idea of accountability that “involves the means by which public agencies and their workers manage the diverse expectations generated within and outside the organization” (228). In addition to these expressions of accountability manifesting itself at an organizational level, 19  Bovens et al (2014) discuss the idea of “corporate accountability,” in which an organization “as a legal entity is to give [an] account” (10). This draws a distinction with “hierarchical accountability,” where “only the apex of the organization (the CEO or minister) needs to render an account externally;” “collective responsibility, in which every member of the organization can be called upon to give account;” and “individual accountability, in which individual officials are held accountable in so far as they have contributed to or are responsible for the acts of the organization” (Ibid.). Accountability can clearly be present at different levels and can be measured in different units. This thesis is concerned with how it is used at an organizational level. Accountability is also multi-directional. It can usually be observed to either flow vertically or horizontally (Klijn and Koppenjam 2014, 243). Vertical manifestations of accountability intuitively involve hierarchy, delegation, and obligation. Vertical accountability “refers to the situation where the [accountability] forum formally wields power over the actor, perhaps due to the hierarchical relationship between actor and forum” (Bovens 2007, 460). With vertical accountability, a forum is usually able to compel an actor to give an account, “although this is not based on a principle-agent relationship, but on laws and regulations” (Ibid.). On the other hand, horizontal accountability envisions accountability as engaging stakeholders “such as clients, partners, professional peers or independent boards” (Schillemans 2010, 301). In this thesis such typologies relate to the use of accountability as a virtue and as a mechanism. Virtue accountability resembles horizontal accountability and mechanical accountability resembles vertical accountability.  “Accountability” is a difficult concept to fully grasp, but it is one that few public organizations can seem to get enough of. Though it lacks a truly definitive meaning, we can 20  distill that “accountability” carries with it a sense of obligation to share information and forms a theoretical basis that legitimizes the sanctioning of account-givers for their performances. As well, I have shown that it is possible for accountability to manifest itself at different levels within an organization, and that it can flow in different directions. The next chapter of this thesis builds on this, developing an understanding of accountability’s use as a virtue and as a mechanism.                    21   Chapter 4: Accountability as a Virtue and as a Mechanism  This chapter outlines and expands upon my two key concepts under analysis, virtuous accountability, and mechanical accountability. It also discusses the implications for citizens when an organization such as TransLink uses only one of, or both these forms of accountability.  The idea that accountability can be used as either virtue or as a mechanism originates from Bovens’ (2010) seminal article “Two Concepts of Accountability: Accountability as a Virtue and as a Mechanism.” That accountability can be categorized under either one of these typologies across multiple organizations is one of the rare consensuses that has emerged within accountability studies (Bovens, Schillemans and Goodin 2014, 7). In his article, Bovens (2010) notes that virtuous and mechanical accountability have “a strong ‘family resemblance’” that demonstrates how the two forms of accountability are “closely related and mutually reinforcing” (962). On the other hand, they each retain a degree of distinctness, being concepts that “address different kinds of issues, imply different standards and evoke different analytical dimensions” (Bovens, Schillemans and Goodin 2014, 7). Though virtuous and mechanical accountability share a strong resemblance, if both were walking down the street it would be possible to pick out which was which. Within an organization, virtuous accountability looks like actions and behaviour that lead to a high degree of transparency. It will look like actions that make information about an organization easily available and accessible; essentially an ‘open book’ or ‘open doors’ approach to providing the public with information. Mechanical accountability will look like actions that can be taken to compel change within an organization in response to information about its operations or outcomes. This can be seen in institutional mechanisms that can be activated by account-holders should they find or see something that they don’t like. In this 22  way, there is a procedural relationship between virtuous and mechanical accountability, with mechanical accountability being the ability to react and create change in response to the information made available by virtuous accountability.     When used as a virtue, accountability has a strongly normative connotation “as a desirable quality of states, government organizations, firms, or officials” (Bovens, Schillemans and Goodin 2014, 7). This is primarily, though not exclusively, considered an American perspective on accountability (Bovens 2010, 947). When accountability is used by actors as a virtue, the focus is “the evaluation of the conduct of actors and an analysis of the factors that induce accountable behaviour” (Bovens, Schillemans and Goodin 2014, 8). The use of accountability as a virtue is closely related to ideas such as: “‘responsiveness,’ ‘a sense of responsibility,’ or a willingness to act in a transparent, fair, complaint, and equitable way” (Ibid.). In the wider frame of the general idea of accountability, these virtuous ideals are precursor types of behaviour that need to occur before any type of informed response can happen. The outcome of the use of accountability as a virtue is that informed responses are made possible by the provision of information about an organization’s behaviour or performance.  Making use of accountability as a virtue brings an organization’s behaviour into the spotlight and frames the idea of accountability as behaviour that ensures information is easily and publicly accessible. Along these lines, mobilizing a virtuous form of organizational accountability also brings with it an expectation of normative evaluations through the use of accountability benchmarks and other comparisons that can serve as the “substantive standards for good governance” (Bovens, Schillemans and Goodin 2014, 8). Typically, these standards are used as measuring sticks to judge whether accountability had actually been achieved within an organization (Ibid.). However, since “there is no general consensus about the standards for 23  accountable behaviour” (Ibid.), the benchmarks chosen to evaluate accountability can be rather arbitrary. Organizations can use them to address a whole range of behaviours and strategies. Virtuous accountability thus becomes “an essentially contested and contestable concept par excellence” (Bovens 2010, 949).   Using accountability as a virtue puts the evaluation of actors’ and organizations’ behaviour at the centre of attention, encouraging the dissemination of large amounts of information about an agency’s behaviour and establishing benchmarks that can be used to interpret the information provided. Based on this, the best place to observe evidence of virtuous accountability is organizational locations where information is being provided either as an obligation or in a voluntary manner. Virtue accountability is visible when an organization provides publicly accessible information about itself. Another sign of the use of virtuous accountability could be seen in the type of language deployed amid and organization’s discussion of its own accountability. The way an organization speaks about accountability is suggestive of whether its accountability approach is primarily virtuous or mechanical. If accountability is used as a virtue, the accompanying language is expected to revolve around ideas such as transparency and responsiveness. The implication of the use of accountability as a virtue for accountors such as the general public, is that information about an agency’s behaviour will be easy to obtain. For example, if a person wants to know how an agency is spending its money, it should be relatively easy to find this information and there may also be some sort of benchmark to compare it to. Based on these traits that emphasize publicness and accessibility, the use of accountability as a virtue should be rather easy to observe.   Mechanical accountability has a “narrower” and more “descriptive sense” (Bovens 2010, 948) than its virtuous form. The use of accountability as a mechanism associates the term with 24  “an institutional relation or arrangement in which an agent can be held to account by another agent or institution” (Bovens, Schillemans and Goodin 2014, 8). This type of accountability uses an “assemblage of structures and mechanisms” including laws, institutions, and processes “that comprise governance” (Dubnick 2014, 650) as the foundations for accountability. It is clearly related to vertical accountability. When using accountability in this way, the primary concern of an actor “is not the propriety of the behaviour of public agents,” but whether the relationships between accountors and accountees “can be called accountability mechanisms, how these mechanisms function, and what their effects are” (Bovens 2010, 961). Thus, this type of usage places “the relationship[s] between agents and forums” (Bovens, Schillemans and Goodin 2014, 9) at the centre of concern. Organizations who rely on accountability as a mechanism are interested in whether they can or cannot “be held accountable ex post facto by accountability forums” (Bovens 2010, 948). When used as a mechanism, accountability is primarily about the institutions that enable “political or social control” (957). In this way, mechanical accountability is related to the meanings of accountability that imply a sense of obligation and power of one group over another. It also establishes a chronological connection between the use of accountability as a virtue and as a mechanism. The use of accountability as a virtue makes information public,6 and then the use of mechanical accountability allows people or groups to react in such a way that meaningful changes can be forced. The use of accountability as a mechanism demands that organizations be obligated to make meaningful responses to calls for change.    Given the tight connections between these two types of accountability, the identification of accountability being used as a mechanism within an organization is much simpler than its                                                           6 Either as a voluntary release of information, or as an obligatory or compelled release or provision of info. 25  potential use as a virtue. If accountability is being used as a mechanism within TransLink, we would expect to see the presence and (at least occasional) activation of institutionalized processes that require organizational changes to be made in response to various demands. For example, when unsatisfactory information about TransLink’s operations comes to light, if accountability is being used as a mechanism it would be expected that systems will exist that can lead to changes within the organization. Though these processes themselves may be compelled, whether they actually result in changes depends on the totality of factors and the individual circumstances of each case. For example, elections may be required to take place, but voters could return the same actors to power. On the other hand, such processes can also guarantee that changes will happen, such as requiring reforms if performance targets are not met. In such cases, the status quo is deemed unacceptable and cannot be maintained. Given the public nature of TransLink, mechanical processes such as these should be observable, clear, and linked to the information provided by the use of accountability as a virtue.  Largely developed by Bovens (2010), the idea that accountability can be used as either a virtue or as a mechanism is one of the few consensuses that has emerged within accountability studies. Though these two uses are distinct, they simultaneously share a close connection and can both be present in an organization at the same time. The use of virtuous accountability entails the publicizing and easy accessibility of information about an organization’s operations, and the use of mechanical accountability entails the presence and activation of institutions that can be mobilized in response to information about an organization, that can subsequently force changes within the organization. These two uses can be seen to operate in tandem, with virtuous accountability making information public, and then mechanical accountability enabling organizational change(s) to come as a result. This distinction between these two uses is 26  important, as the presence of both, or one without the other, can have significant effects on the shape of the relationship between an organization and those it is meant to be accountable to. This distinction is the difference between being able to find out information about an organization’s operations, and being able to actually do something to bring about changes to fix something undesirable. In this way, at TransLink, the presence of virtuous accountability without any subsequent mechanical accountability serves as a negative influence on the agency’s relationship with the public.                 27   Chapter 5: An Identification Strategy for Forms of Accountability  This chapter outlines how I will demonstrate that accountability is used as a virtue, but not as a mechanism within TransLink. I consider the necessary types of evidence needed to sustain this claim and establish and justify the standards I will use to determine whether particular observations will be considered suitable evidence. I also will establish three organizational locations within TransLink that will serve as good places to find evidence of accountability being used as a virtue, but not as a mechanism. In accomplishing this, this chapter will layout the analytical framework needed to assess how accountability is used within TransLink.  An important preliminary consideration for my methodology is that it heavily interacts with documents and other materials created and distributed by TransLink, as well as bodies such as the Mayors’ Council and the TransLink Board. My methodology assumes that the information provided by TransLink and its associated bodies is made and presented in good faith and is not meant to be deceptive. Creating and cultivating a sense of ‘being accountable’ would likely have positive implications for TransLink. Accordingly, it might have an incentive to be deceptive about its sense of accountability and, for example, exaggerate its commitment to various accountability processes. Regardless, this thesis simply assumes that TransLink provides accurate information and advances honest opinions about its behaviours.   Given that this thesis has identified two possible ways that accountability can be used within an organization, an effective methodology would likely need to consider four different types of evidence to determine if TransLink uses accountability as a virtue, as a mechanism, as both, or neither. These four types of evidence are: evidence of accountability being used as a 28  virtue, evidence of accountability not being used as a virtue, evidence of accountability being used as a mechanism, and evidence of accountability not being used as a mechanism. For both types of usage, careful reflection on the evidence of both presence and absence would be needed to determine what the totality of evidence actually suggests is the case. This system of evaluation for these four types of evidence would establish a categorization scheme with four possible categories that TransLink, or any other organization, could be placed within. Table 1 presents a visualization of such a four-quadrant categorization system.  Table 1: Four-Quadrant Categorization    Though this framework may make sense on paper, it does not translate well to reality, especially within the context of the study of public agencies such as TransLink. Two of the categories presented by this framework will not exist in the real world. These are the bottom two cells in Table 1 that would contain cases where accountability is not being used as a virtue. Strong positive perceptions surround the use of virtuous accountability. Most public agencies will therefore have some elements of the use of accountability as a virtue. Only organizations within the realm of hypotheticals will lack any examples at all of accountability in use as a 29  virtue. For this reason, though identifying the use of accountability as a virtue will be helpful for locating instances where it may be followed up by use as a mechanism, expending large of amounts of time and space assessing whether TransLink uses accountability as a virtue is not an efficient undertaking. Based on its inherent traits, I presume that accountability is used as a virtue within TransLink. Being able to make this assumption renders the first half of my hypothesis correct, TransLink does use accountability as a virtue. For this methodology, the main implication of this assumption is that there is only one dichotomous variable that shapes the categorization scheme in use. The second, and most important part of my hypothesis hinges on demonstrating that accountability is not used as a mechanism within TransLink. Table 2 presents a visualization of the slimmed down, two-quadrant categorization system of concern for my methodology.  Table 2: Two-Quadrant Categorization    Determining if accountability is used as a mechanism within TransLink involves evaluating only two types of evidence: evidence of accountability being used as a mechanism, and evidence of accountability not being used as a mechanism. In this evaluation, I establish a high bar of consideration for evidence of accountability being used as a mechanism. In the TransLink case, evidence of accountability being used as a mechanism will require the presence 30  of obligations for TransLink to change or modify its activities or behaviour in response to recommendations or requests from the public or any external body that stems from information provided by TransLink’s use of virtuous accountability. This criterion’s emphasis on the need for obligations sets a high bar. The reason for this, is that without such obligations to make changes, even in the face of serious controversy, TransLink cannot be compelled to make changes to itself. TransLink may simply ignore bad publicity and reject external demands for organizational changes. Obligations to respond or change would force TransLink to respond and thereby constitute strong evidence that accountability is used as a mechanism within its organization. TransLink might well choose to change itself in response to requests, recommendations, or demands. But in the absence of an actual obligation such behaviour is purely voluntary and can be invoked and revoked at any time. To determine if accountability is used as a mechanism within TransLink it is necessary to look for examples of obligations for TransLink to make organizational changes to itself in response to external requests or demands.  Evidence of accountability not being used as a mechanism will essentially be a mirror of the qualifications for evidence of accountability being used as a mechanism. Evidence of accountability not being used as a mechanism will be considered to be represented by a lack of any obligation for TransLink to change or modify itself in response to extra-organizational requests resulting from information about the agency’s behaviour or performance. In this case, regarding the use of accountability as a mechanism, absence of evidence will be considered evidence of absence. This is because, if present, TransLink would certainly ensure that it this type of use would be visible. Manifested in reality, these conditions will look like sets of arrangements where information about TransLink is available, and requests or demands for change can be made, but TransLink will have no obligation to carry out any such changes. 31  Showing that accountability is not used as a mechanism relies on being able to show an absence of any such institutions or procedures of compulsion.  In looking for these two types of evidence, evidence of accountability being used as a mechanism will carry great weight when it comes to the consideration of my hypothesis. Given the pre-existing knowledge about TransLink and the Canadian public transit sector as a whole, as well as the established high bar for evidence, we have an extremely low prior expectation of observing this type of evidence. However, if accountability is being used as a mechanism within TransLink we are almost certain to see it given its high degree of visibility. For this reason, the observation of any satisfactory evidence would greatly impact the likelihood that my hypothesis is correct. This weighting of any evidence observed of mechanical accountability in use must be considered in this analysis.   In order to look for evidence of the presence or absence of the use of accountability as a mechanism it is necessary to examine areas within TransLink’s organization where virtuous accountability is being mobilized in a way that makes the use of accountability as a mechanism visible. Within TransLink’s organization there are three major opportunities for such favourable circumstances. First, the agency’s annual reports that publicly present information about TransLink’s behaviour and actions. Second, are at public meetings of the TransLink Board and the Mayors’ Council where those people tasked with the governance of the agency present information and face the public. The third location is in TransLink’s interactions with such provincial level institutions as the Auditor General, the Ombudsperson, and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). Looking at these three places within TransLink where accountability is being used as a virtue, and the seeing whether they are followed up with obligations to make organizational changes, will provide evidence of the 32  presence or absence of the use of accountability as a mechanism. If in these three organizational locations there are no obligations for TransLink to change itself in response to information, this will be strong evidence that will confirm my hypothesis that accountability is used as a virtue but not as a mechanism within TransLink. The next chapter of this thesis applies this methodology to TransLink to determine if accountability is used as a mechanism within the agency.                   33  Chapter 6: Assessing the Use of Accountability Within TransLink  This chapter assesses whether accountability is used as a mechanism within TransLink. It considers three different locations within TransLink’s organizational structure where accountability is being used as a virtue; contexts that create a possibility for accountability’s use as a mechanism to become visible if it is indeed present. In each of these locations I look for evidence of accountability being used as a mechanism in response to its use as a virtue. This use as a mechanism will take the form of the presence of obligations for TransLink to modify itself in response to demands or requests for changes from outside actors. In each location I will determine if any such obligations exist and will use the findings to indicate whether or not accountability is being used as a mechanism. First, I look at TransLink’s annual reports. Second, I look at the public meetings of the TransLink Board and Mayors’ Council. Third, I look at TransLink’s interaction with several provincial level accountability institutions, including the Office of the Auditor General, the Ombudsperson’s Office, and FIPPA. I demonstrate that none of these organizational locations contain observations of accountability being used as a mechanism in a way that satisfies my standards for evidence established in the previous chapter.  In looking at TransLink’s annual reports, I limit my analysis to 2016, the most recent available year. This is because a focus on the most recent reports creates a better picture of the current situation regarding the use of accountability within TransLink. TransLink’s annual reports contain many aspects of the use of virtuous accountability. The SCBCTAA mandates that within ninety days of the end of each fiscal year, TransLink must produce an annual report “of the operations of the authority and its subsidiaries for the previous year” and must provide this report to the Mayors’ Council (Government of British Columbia, SCBCTAA, 2017, §7(3)(a)).  These reports must include a wide variety of information about TransLink’s operations and 34  performance in the previous year, as well as “a comparison of the operations of the authority and its subsidiaries to the applicable strategic plan and the applicable service, capital and operational plans” (§13.4(a)). TransLink is required to provide much information, including: “the audited financial statements prepared for that year” (§13.4(b)), “a summary of the results of the customer satisfaction survey process” undertaken in the previous year (§13.4(d)), “the date, type and outcome of any meetings of the board held in that year” (§13.4(f)), and “the current version of the fare collection bylaw” (§13.4(g)). These requirements establish TransLink’s legislated annual reports as an important organizational location where accountability is used as a virtue. The requirement to make this information publicly available, and to compare it to benchmarks established in organizational plans fits the ideals of virtuous accountability rather well and also creates an opportunity to see if accountability is being used as a mechanism with the organization. If accountability is being used as a mechanism, we would expect to see there be obligations for TransLink to modify its operations in response to demands stemming from the information presented in these reports. Looking for these obligations, I find no such examples.  Opportunities for mechanical accountability to reveal itself permeate TransLink’s governing statute, especially as it relates to the release of information. TransLink is obligated to provide “a summary of the number and nature of complaints received” in the past year, and to include “the actions taken by the authority in response to those complaints” (Government of British Columbia, SCBCTAA, 2017, §13.4(c)). At first this may suggest the possibility of accountability being used as a mechanism, as it seems to require TransLink to outline how it has responded to received complaints. However, upon closer inspection, this is not an example of mechanical accountability as it does not compel TransLink to change itself in response to these complaints. It simply requires the agency to have guidelines in place to process and receive 35  complaints, and leaves it up to TransLink to decide whether to act on them. Similarly, the SCBCTAA also requires that TransLink have “a process by which the authority will deal with customer complaints” (§225(1)(a)). But TransLink is not legally obligated to respond to these complaints in any particular way.  TransLink is obligated to provide annual reports that provide information about the agency’s behaviour and actions, something that stands as an example of accountability being used as a virtue. However, as seen in how TransLink is required to process complaints, there are no obligations for it to respond in any substantive way. TransLink has considerable autonomy in this sphere that indicates a lack of obligations to outside actors. This observation provides weak evidence of accountability being used as a mechanism and rather strong evidence that accountability is not being used as a mechanism. With a lack of any obligation to change itself, this evidence does not clear the bar to count as evidence of accountability being used as a mechanism.   In practice, TransLink’s annual reports take two forms that further serve as evidence that accountability is not used as a mechanism within the organization. Since the governance reforms of 2007, TransLink has annually produced two different documents to fulfill its reporting obligation under the SCBCTAA. The first are its Annual Reports, that are well produced documents filled with graphics, photos, and simplified charts that present basic information about TransLink’s performance in several areas (TransLink, 2016 Annual Report, 2017). These reports are clearly written with a broad public audience in mind. The 2016 Annual Report shows further evidence of considerable amounts of information being provided, but not being followed up on by any obligations to make changes. The 2016 Report states “Accountability” as one of TransLink’s core values along with “Safety, Customer Service, People, Inclusiveness, Integrity, 36  Excellence” and “Sustainability” (i). The mobilization of accountability as a core value is consistent with the use of accountability as a virtue. TransLink’s 2016 Annual Report also discusses how TransLink “moved forward with strategies that focus on: measuring outcomes, aligning resources, defining key performance indicators, and tracking our performance on a regular basis” (13). Further, the report also notes the creations of an “Accountability Centre” on TransLink’s website that highlights “ridership, customer satisfaction, safety and security, service quality, efficiency and environment” as areas under assessment (Ibid.). These activities are presented as examples of TransLink’s “continuous improvement towards being more open, transparent and accountable and improving the customer experience” (Ibid.). The provision of this information serves as examples of accountability being used as a virtue. However, again, when looking for any obligation to follow up on information or outcomes with organizational changes where performance is lacking, there is nothing to be seen. In this way, TransLink’s annual reports are strong evidence of the use of virtuous accountability as they stress providing information to the public. But, there is no discussion of any changes that TransLink is obliged to make in response to the information it presents in these reports.  The lack of any obligation to make organizational changes in response to outcomes and performance can clearly be seen in TransLink’s Statutory Annual Reports, which are published annually as companions to its Annual Reports. TransLink suggests that they be read together “in order to get a full understanding of the organization and its financial and operational performance (TransLink, 2016 Statutory Annual Report, 2017, 2). The Statutory Reports are nearly entirely comprised of text and tables. While available to the public, these reports are designed to meet the reporting requirements established by the SCBCTAA on a point-by-point basis. In doing so, it is again possible to see accountability being used as a virtue, but then not 37  followed up as a mechanism. Though TransLink is obliged to report on what it has done to address customer complaints, the 2016 Statutory Report discusses these in a more retrospective fashion, rather than a forward looking way (30-34), indicating that there is less concern with these complaints obliging changes to how TransLink operates. TransLink has interpreted this SCBCTAA obligation to mean that it must have a clear complaint process, but that it is not obligated to follow up with any substantive response. TransLink’s two types of annual reports, as examples of accountability being used as a virtue, produce evidence that accountability is not used as a mechanism within its organization as there are no subsequent obligations to change any part of its operations.  The second area of TransLink’s organization that demonstrates an absence of mechanical accountability is public meetings of the TransLink Board and the Mayors’ Council. Both important bodies hold regular public meetings which, as an opportunity to present information in a public setting, are examples of accountability being used as a virtue. The SCBCTAA obligates the TransLink Board to hold an annual general meeting at least once per year (Government of British Columbia, SCBCTAA, 2017, §13.1(1)), and since 2015 it has opened its regular meetings to the public (TransLink 2016, 10). Meanwhile, the Mayors’ Council is obligated to hold meetings at least four times per year (Government of British Columbia, SCBCTAA, 2017, §210(1)) and can use its discretion to open or close meetings to the public (§210(2)).   The minutes of these meetings and the related governing documents again reveal the absence of mechanical accountability. Meetings of the Mayors’ Council and the TransLink Board may be open to the public, and members of the public are allowed to ask questions, but neither the SCBCTAA, Section 9 of the TransLink Board articles (TransLink Board of Directors 38  2011, 3-4),7 nor the parts of the Board Governance Manual that deal with public input (TransLink Board of Directors 2017, 13) obligate the Board or the Mayors’ Council to respond or react to requests made by the public at these meetings in any way.  However, material made available on TransLink’s website does suggest that some sort of system has been implemented to formally respond to public questions and inquiries at Board meetings. This is indicated in reports8 9 10 presented to the Board at its 2016 and 2017 meetings that summarize the public delegations that spoke at previous meetings and outline what TransLink has done to follow up on the concerns of these delegations. Though this seems to be a weak form of mechanical accountability in use, it does not rise to the level of a true obligation for TransLink to make changes to itself in response to these concerns. As it appears to be a voluntary move, TransLink could cease this behaviour at any time. For this reason, this procedure does not satisfy the requirements for evidence of accountability being used as a mechanism.  The public meetings of the TransLink Board and the Mayors’ Council are situations where the use of accountability as a virtue becomes apparent. In doing so, these create opportunities for any obligations that TransLink has to response to request for change to become visible. If present, these would serve as good evidence of the use of accountability as a mechanism. However, considering the standards of evidence used in this thesis, what has been                                                           7 Section 9 regulates the Board’s interaction with the public.  8 https://www.translink.ca/-/media/Documents/about_translink/governance_and_board/board_minutes_and_reports/2017/Sept/20170928_open_board_meeting_report.pdf (Accessed November 11, 2017). 9 https://www.translink.ca/- /media/Documents/about_translink/governance_and_board/board_minutes_and_reports/2017/June/17_06_23_Open_Board_Meeting_Agenda_Package-final_with_TOC_for_posting.pdf (Accessed November 11, 2017). 10 https://www.translink.ca/-/media/Documents/about_translink/governance_and_board/board_minutes_and_reports/2017/March/20170330_Public_Board_Meeting_Report.pdf (Accessed November 11, 2017). 39  observed in these meetings does not reach the threshold required to be considered mechanical accountability. The closest approach to this bar, the TransLink Board’s process of providing responses to public questions that indicate some changes to operations, fails to satisfy my requirements as it appears to be done so solely on a voluntary basis, rather than under any type of legal obligation.  The third organizational area where it is possible to assess the presence or absence of the use of accountability as a mechanism in response to its use as a virtue is TransLink’s relationship with such provincial government institutions as the Auditor General, the Ombudsperson, and FIPPA. These locations again reveal an absence of obligations binding TransLink to respond and implement changes in any particular way. This provides further evidence of accountability not being used as a mechanism with the organization.  TransLink’s relationship with the Auditor General reveals an absence of mechanical accountability. As TransLink is not considered a government reporting entity, it “does not fall within the Auditor General’s oversight role” (Auditor General of British Columbia 2013, 6). However, the SCBCTAA ensures that TransLink’s financial records must be made open at all times for inspection by the Auditor General (Government of British Columbia, SCBCTAA, 2017, §7(1)) and also allows the minister responsible for TransLink, or the Mayors’ Council, to request an audit of TransLink’s “efficiency and cost-effectiveness” (§227.1(1)). However, TransLink is not obliged to implement any recommendations that may be made. That TransLink is excluded from Auditor General’s purview is strong evidence that accountability is not being used as a mechanism within TransLink. If TransLink were to fall under its jurisdiction, it would instill a strong example of accountability being used as a mechanism within the organization, realized through the obligations to follow through on the recommendations placed on any 40  organization that is examined by the Auditor General. That this structure is absent serves as evidence that accountability at TransLink is not being used as a mechanism.  Despite being excluded from the jurisdiction of the Auditor General, TransLink does fall under the powers of the BC Ombudsperson’s Office. The Ombudsperson is authorized by its establishing legislation to examine the actions of TransLink as well as its employees (Government of British Columbia, Ombudsperson Act, 2017, Schedule 1). Within this relationship, a now familiar scenario takes place where, regardless of various pressures, TransLink is free of any obligation to implement recommended changes. After an investigation, the Ombudsperson can make recommendations for changes (§23), and can follow up on whether changes have been implemented (§24). However, this is a weak form of mechanical accountability as the Ombudsperson cannot compel these changes to happen by themselves. The harshest action it can take is to submit a report to the government or legislature if “within a reasonable time after a request has been made under section 24 no action is taken that the Ombudsperson believes adequate or appropriate” (§25(1)). This demonstrates that TransLink does have a weak obligation to respond to the Ombudsperson’s recommendations, but there is no hard obligation to make institutional changes in response to these recommendations. However, like the soft mechanical accountability that has developed within TransLink’s Board meetings, TransLink does seem to have been open to implementing changes suggested by the Ombudsperson, even if not obligated to. In the two cases involving TransLink that the Ombudsperson has investigated, TransLink has been receptive to the changes recommended (The Office of the Ombudsperson 2011; The Office of the Ombudsperson 2015). However, it is under no legal obligation to actually make any changes that are recommended or requested. 41  Thus, this again fails to meet the requirements for this thesis to be able to say that this is an example of accountability being used as a mechanism.  A final provincial accountability institution that TransLink interacts with is FIPPA and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. Like every public body in British Columbia, TransLink, as well as its operating subsidiaries is subject to the provisions of the Act that require the release of eligible information (Government of British Columbia, FIPPA, 2017). In accordance with this, TransLink states that it is “committed to assisting applicants openly, accurately, completely, and without delay” when a request is made under the legislation (TransLink, Freedom of Information, 2017). TransLink even provides a pre-made form for such requests on its website.11 In one sense, TransLink’s requirements under FIPPA are an example of accountability being used as a mechanism. FIPPA does compel TransLink to operate in a certain way,12 make certain types of information available, and can effectively demand TransLink hand over information it may not want to release. In this way, FIPPA does compel TransLink to make some organizational changes to how it operates. However, this is closer to a virtuous use of accountability as it regards the public availability of information. Once information is released under FIPPA, TransLink has no further obligation to make any changes in response to demands or requests based on this information. The only obligations TransLink has under FIPPA is to release eligible information. FIPPA may resemble a mechanical form of accountability, but it only does so in that it helps make information public. It does not oblige TransLink to make the types of changes that could lead it to be considered an example of accountability used as a mechanism. For this reason, in looking at TransLink’s interaction with FIPPA and the Office of                                                           11 https://www.translink.ca/-/media/Documents/about_translink/foi/foi_request_for_access_to_records.pdf (Accessed November 9, 2017). 12 Such as establishing an office that deals with FIPPA requests. 42  the Information and Privacy Commissioner, there are no real obligations for TransLink to make meaningful changes to itself.  In examining three significant locations within TransLink, obligations to provide various types of information are visible. But very rarely is TransLink obliged to act on recommendations or demands from the public or from external actors that stem from the information about itself that it provides with its use of virtuous accountability. The stipulations of FIPPA seem to come close to obliging TransLink to make meaningful organizational changes, but it only does so in a way that aids the release of information, not the satisfaction of demands to rectify unsatisfactory performance. However, to its credit, TransLink can be seen to have voluntarily altered its behaviour in several different situations such as implementing recommendations from the Ombudsperson and responding to concerns raised by the public at Board meetings. Though these do demonstrate a weak form of accountability being used as a mechanism, it fails to live up to the requirement that these be true obligations to enacts changes within the organization in the face of extra-organizational demands.  In the three key organizational locations considered, I have found no satisfactory evidence of accountability being used as a mechanism in the form of obligations to implement changes. This analysis indicates that within TransLink, accountability is used as a virtue, but not as a mechanism. This is a situation that creates problems for TransLink and for its relationship with the public that it serves. For residents of Metro Vancouver, there is lots of information available about TransLink and many ways to procure this information. However, regardless of what that information says about TransLink’s operations, there is essentially nothing that can be done to force TransLink to make changes to rectify any unsatisfactory outcomes. For this reason, consternation about TransLink as an organization can somewhat be justified. 43  Chapter 7: Conclusion  Every day in Metro Vancouver hundreds of thousands of people rely on TransLink services and infrastructure to get themselves wherever they need to go. Throughout its nearly twenty-year history, TransLink’s accountability has been a recurrent concern. This analysis of how accountability is used within TransLink can help to build an understanding of how the organization operates, and why its accountability has proven to be such a hot topic of debate. My findings can also help to point towards what actions should be taken to improve TransLink’s accountability, something that can hopeful mend the public’s perception of the agency.  My examination of the idea of accountability demonstrates that the idea may not have a precise definition, but it does carry with it a cohesive set of meanings that generally are viewed as being positives for a public organization to have or strive for. This survey of the literature on accountability also reveals that in practice, accountability can be used as a virtue or as a mechanism, two forms that are distinct, yet connected. Having developed a methodology for identifying the presence or absence of mechanical accountability, and selecting three organizational areas where it is likely to be observed if present, this thesis has shown that accountability at TransLink is used as a virtue, but not as a mechanism.  As TransLink enters its third decade, its organizational accountability will very likely remain an important concern for many people in Metro Vancouver and across British Columbia. TransLink’s present accountability arrangement is lacking, a situation that leads to a sometimes hostile public. By making lots of information about itself easily available, but not having any institutional structures that obligate or compel organizational changes, TransLink’s accountability seems deficient to many groups. Other than the provincial government using 44  extraordinary means,13 the level of accountability experienced by TransLink will continue to primarily be decided by the organization itself and how it choses to respond or change in the face of request or demands. Because of this, I believe that TransLink’s accountability will continue to be an issue until the agency begins to use and experience accountability as a mechanism and not just a virtue. This is something that will create real obligations to make organizational changes in response to various performance indicators.  TransLink should be an public agency where accountability is used as both a virtue and as a mechanism. A more robust accountability system might lead to greater trust in, and respect for, TransLink on the part of the general public. However, with an organization as large, unique, complex, and important as TransLink, there is no clear single pathway forward to bring about this desired reality that will satisfy all stakeholders. As Mulgan (2014) suggests, in the case of networked governance structures like TransLink’s, it may even be unrealistic to hope for anything more than accountability being used as a virtue. The sheer complexity and muddled lines of responsibility within TransLink would likely make any attempt at instituting sets of organizational obligations a herculean task. There are potential options that could be tried to encourage the use of accountability as a mechanism within the organization. These could include: replacing the Mayors’ Council with a directly elected body whose members solely deal with TransLink, directly electing the TransLink Board, mandating that TransLink make organizational changes if performance benchmarks are not met, bringing TransLink under the jurisdiction of the Auditor General, or legally requiring it to make any changes recommended by the Ombudsperson. Any of these changes would be difficult to implement, but would represent a movement towards the use of accountability as a mechanism within TransLink and would help to                                                           13 Such as amending, or otherwise changing the SCBCTAA.  45  bolster positive perceptions of the agency as something other than an unresponsive bad-news machine. Ensuring that at TransLink accountability is used as mechanism in conjunction with its use as a virtue is something that should happen. However, given the current situation regarding accountability within the agency, bringing about this change would be no easy task. Nevertheless, establishing structures and institutions that would lead to accountability being used as a virtue and as a mechanism within TransLink will be key to securing the agency’s future, and thus keeping alive the regional vision for transportation that initially brought TransLink into existence nearly twenty years ago. It is not enough that information be available for public consumption. There needs to be ways to bring about meaningful changes within the organization even if TransLink itself doesn’t want such changes to happen.             46  Works Cited Auditor General of British Columbia. 2001. "Transportation in Greater Vancouver: A Review of Agreements Between the Province and TransLink, and of TransLink's Governance Structure." Auditor General of British Columbia. 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"Ombudsperson Act." Government of BC. Accessed December 4, 2017. http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/96340_01/ —. 2017. "South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act." Government of BC. Accessed December 4, 2017. http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/98030_01 Halachmi, Arie. 2014. "Accountability Overloads." In The Oxford Handbook of Public Accountability, edited by Mark Bovens, Robert Goodin and Thomas Schillemans, 560-573. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Accessed December 4, 2017. http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199641253.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199641253-e-011  48  Hood, Christopher. 2014. "Accountability and Blame-Avoidance." In The Oxford Handbook of Public Accountability, edited by Mark Bovens, Robert Goodin and Thomas Schillemans, 603-616. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 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