The chair of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation is clueless about what next year’s referendum on transit funding will look like.
Richard Walton of the District of North Vancouver and council vice-chair Wayne Wright of New Westminster recently met B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone.
Except for Stone affirming that a Lower Mainland referendum will happen—as promised by Premier Christy Clark in the last provincial election—“nothing of any tremendous substance” came out of the meeting, Walton said.
“The critical issue is who’s going to be out there pounding the turf, engaging the public,” Walton told the Straight by phone.
He noted that it won’t be the mayors’ council, because it didn’t ask for the referendum. And Walton doubts that it will be TransLink, because of expected criticisms that the regional transportation body is concerned only about its corporate interests.
The mayor also has no idea what question will be asked in the referendum, or how much the vote will cost.
In a document released last July titled Regional Transportation Strategy, TransLink presented a $23-billion capital plan covering the next three decades. The total includes a “currently unfunded cost” of $5 billion to maintain the system and existing service levels for 30 years. The balance of $18 billion represents “additional cost” for projects identified by TransLink and its partners.
Jordan Bateman, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, explained what it means when operating costs are combined with TransLink’s capital requirements.
“You’d have to double every tax, every toll, every penny that TransLink collects right now in order for pay for it all,” Bateman told the Straight by phone. “Absolutely, I think the public deserves a say in that.”