The B.C. government has approved the transit referendum question put forward by the Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation, with some tweaks.
While the mayors had proposed a 0.5-percentage-point hike to the provincial sales tax, Transportation Minister Todd Stone said it will be a new Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax that will be voted on by the region.
Stone also confirmed that the vote will be a mail-in ballot plebiscite. Ballot mailing will begin on March 16, 2015, and voting will end on May 29, 2015.
Here's Stone's letter to the mayors' council:
Re: Mayors' Council Recommendations
Mayor Richard Walton, Chair
Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation
287 Nelson's Court, Suite 400
New Westminster, B.C., V3L 0E7
December 18, 2014
VICTORIA - Dear Mayor Walton:
Thank you for your letter of Dec. 11, 2014, providing me with the Mayors' Council recommendations respecting the question to be taken to voters in spring 2015 and the proposed new revenue source.
As I committed, I have carefully considered the wording of the Mayors' Council proposal and am pleased to advise you that the Province is prepared to support your question and proposed revenue source, with some minor refinements that reflect input from Elections BC in order to meet their ballot fairness requirements.
In support of the Mayors' request for a regional sales tax, government has approved a plebiscite on whether to enable a 0.5% regional sales tax to implement regional transportation and transit priorities as proposed by the Mayors' Council. This tax would be separate and distinct from the Provincial Sales Tax (PST). If approved, the Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax would be applied as a sales tax to the majority of goods and services that are subject to the PST and are sold or delivered within the region.
In response to your suggested question, government has approved an amended question which substantially reflects the wording proposed by the Mayors' Council. The question will allow the voters of Metro Vancouver to have their say on whether or not the Mayors' vision and funding source meets their needs for today and future years.
The final approved question is provided as an attachment to this letter.
The vote will be administered by Elections BC as a mail-in ballot plebiscite under the Election Act. Costs of administering the vote will be provided by the Province. Provincial funds will not be provided for either proponent or opponent groups.
Consistent with your recommendation on the voting period, I can also confirm that ballots will be sent out beginning March 16, 2015. To provide time for public dialogue and to allow voters to fully inform themselves about their choices, the voting period will extend until May 29, 2015. With respect to the outcome of the vote, government will consider a regional result of 50% +1 to constitute majority support for the question.
Transit expansion is vital to economic development in Metro Vancouver and will be a critical component of ensuring that the region is able to accommodate the million additional people expected over the next 30 years. I appreciate your efforts to date and look forward to a positive outcome that will benefit the residents of Metro Vancouver and the economy of British Columbia.
Todd G. Stone