Metro Vancouver mayors approve transit referendum question seeking PST hike

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      Metro Vancouver mayors have voted in favour of a referendum question that will ask residents in the region if they support a 0.5 percent increase in the provincial sales tax to pay for a 10-year transportation and transit plan.

      In a vote today (December 11), local mayors including Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson supported the ballot question, while Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan, Maple Ridge’s Nicole Read and West Vancouver’s Mike Smith opposed it.

      The 10-year transportation and transit expansion plan seeks to increase service for crowded bus routes, SkyTrain, Canada Line, SeaBus, and West Coast Express, add new B-line rapid transit bus routes, upgrade major roads, build a new Patullo Bridge, and add light rail transit for Surrey and a Broadway subway in Vancouver.

      Lawrence Frank, a professor at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health and School of Community and Regional Planning, called the ballot question “sensible”, and said it’s good to have one funding source that residents understand.

      “I think it’s good that they explicitly, in a very short, easy to understand question, document and assert accountability,” he said in a phone interview. “I think that’s essential, and I think the voters will really care about that.”

      Frank called the long-term transit strategy “the right plan”, but noted he wishes a referendum wasn’t necessary to put it in place.

      “I think the investments that are being proposed…will really improve the quality of life in our region, I think it’ll improve public health, I think it will help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions and be more economically competitive,” he said. “It’s really important that this passes.”

      Non-Partisan Association councillor George Affleck said his party is supportive of the ballot question to improve transit options in the region.

      “I think as long as they stick to the 0.5 [percent increase] and it doesn’t become a moving target, that we’re comfortable with that,” he told the Straight by phone. “We have to find a solution on this issue absolutely.”

      Affleck added he thinks the provincial government needs to take a look at the TransLink governance model.

      “I think this debate and discussion over the next couple of months will probably include that,” he said.

      According to the referendum ballot question, revenues raised through a PST increase would be subject to annual independent audits and public reporting.

      A coalition of groups that support the mayors’ council transit plan was formed this week. The Better Transit and Transportation Coalition includes the Vancouver Board of Trade, Unifor, Tourism Vancouver, the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.

      Meanwhile, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has launched a campaign against the PST increase.




      Dec 11, 2014 at 3:12pm

      This is absurd. Asking people if they want their taxes raised to support transit is like asking a child if they want to drink cod liver oil. Except that transit is better for you. FAIL!

      ho hum

      Dec 11, 2014 at 3:36pm

      Not a bad question. I might even vote for it.

      But even the best transit system is only a temporary fix for problems caused by terrible city planning. People hate being packed into transit at rush hour. Great city planning eliminates rush hours. Great city planning integrates homes, jobs, schools, shopping, etc. within neighbourhoods, so we don't need to use mass transit every day. And that's why I still might vote no.


      Dec 11, 2014 at 3:38pm

      Not making significant investments in transit in Metro Vancouver is not really an option. If (or should I say when) this referendum fails the province and Metro Vancouver are going to have to come up with another way to fund transit improvements. The region and the province as a whole need improved transit in the Metro Vancouver area. Leaving funding decisions up to the public is simply an abdication of political responsibility on the part of our elected officials.

      Tommy Khang

      Dec 11, 2014 at 3:48pm

      I have no problem with a tax increase but the problem I do have is knowing that this money will then go to Translink which has proven time and time again to be utterly incompetent at handling major projects - Compass Pass and Skytrain Meltdown 2014 (x2). I would be in favor of a PPP for any new major transit infrastructure projects similar to how the Canada Line was handled.

      Also I feel that a vast majority of non-transit users will likely not be in favor of changes unless the Pro-Change camp makes a convincing agreement.

      Michael Castanaveras

      Dec 11, 2014 at 4:09pm

      Let's hope they word the question well. Something like:

      A: 0.5 tax increase, which equals X% DECREASE in travel times and gridlock
      B: Status Quo, which equals X% INCREASE in travel times and gridlock year over year

      If it's a multi question ballot and this question is left blank then a blank answer will be treated as B.

      Raising Transit Taxes - { Not Likely }

      Dec 11, 2014 at 4:15pm

      Taxes Again { Not Likely }

      We Are Already Taxed To The Hilt. As We All Know That None Of These So Called Taxes Goes Where They Will Say It Will Go, Except In There Pockets. This Is Just Another Way To Con Money Out Of Everyones Pockets. { Sure Ain't Going To Come Out Of Mine }. If The Mayors Want These Taxes Let It Come From Them Not Us.

      Kyle MacDonald

      Dec 11, 2014 at 4:39pm

      I'm strongly in favor of this extremely modest tax increase in order to establish funding for transportation infrastructure that will benefit future generations of Vancouverites. Anyone complaining about the 0.5 taxi hike: the GST was lowered specifically for provinces to raise funds for regional issues. This is EXACTLY the type of thing we need to invest in.

      Re: Michael Castanaveras

      Dec 11, 2014 at 4:45pm

      Here's the problem. With the improvements presents it's going to be:

      C: 0.5 tax increase, which equals X% INCREASE in travel times and gridlock

      This plan does nothing for you if your not a student at UBC or live in Surrey. The UBC line should be funded in large part by UBC and developers since they stand to profit the most from it.


      Dec 11, 2014 at 4:53pm

      What is the point? Money will be spent on this referendum and the outcome is already obvious. Back to the drawing board, ladies and gents. Find a more creative solution.

      Real BC Resident

      Dec 11, 2014 at 5:51pm

      I support efficient Transit operations & expansion to meet future needs.

      But Translink current no practical accountability model is broken.

      Translink WASTES $100's of Millions a year! Until that's fixed no more free Tax Dollars!

      Translink Waste...

      1. $171 + Million in waste for useless Fare Gates that will NEVER pay for themselves,

      2. $10 Million ++ to operate said Fare Gates, to save less than about $4 Million in Fare evasion per year,

      3. $25 Million +++ upto to possibly $50 Million for a Private Translink only Police Force + Security + Useless Sub Contracted Agents dressed in Green only,

      Note : I support full Police forces as in the various regional Police and Translink Cops would be better deployed as a Police Officer fighting Crime with any one of our fine Police Agencies ibn the lower mainland.

      4. Millions in executive compensation, wasted,

      5. Overpayiong for Capital Projects and Equipment like Buses, $500K to $1 Million +++ for a Bus! When Global competitive bidding would reduce that by at least 50% or more!

      6. Compare Translink to Washington States Transit System see the huge 50 to 80% disparity in Executive Compensation not to mention operating efficencies vs Translink!

      7. $70 million ++ in unwarranted station upgrades,

      I could go on but if you read Translinks Annual Reports and other Financials posted you would get sick at the Waste.

      Until Translink model is changed to be accountable and Fiscally responsible not a dollar more of free Tax money should be given to them.

      Giving Translink money without real change and accountability is lkike giving a Crack addict more free Crack = bad outcomes :)