“Yes” vote in transit referendum doesn’t guarantee Broadway subway or Surrey light rail

West Vancouver mayor Michael Smith explains opposition to ballot question

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      A successful transit referendum doesn’t guarantee a Broadway subway in Vancouver.

      Neither does it ensure light rail in Surrey or the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge.

      West Vancouver mayor Michael Smith mentions these as among the reasons why he’s opposed to the entire referendum process.

      “Even if the referendum succeeds, it doesn’t guarantee anything,” Smith told the Straight in a phone interview on December 15.

      A few days earlier, he and the mayors of Burnaby and Maple Ridge voted against a proposed question approved by the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation on December 11 for the spring vote.

      Subject to the approval of the provincial government, the ballot question asks voters in Metro Vancouver if they support a half-percentage-point increase in the provincial sales tax (PST) for transportation investments in the region.

      The Broadway subway, Surrey light rail, and a new Pattullo Bridge are the big-ticket items in the $7.5-billion, 10-year vision rolled out by the mayors’ council in June.

      “All has to have federal and provincial participation, and that hasn’t been guaranteed,” Smith said about the three projects. “So the whole question is up in the air. It’s such a very poor way to do things.”

      “It’s their money. They’re the ones who get to decide,” Smith also said about the two senior levels of government.

      The proposed PST increase is expected to generate $250 million in revenues per year.

      Although provincial and federal counterpart funding have to be secured for the Broadway subway, light rail in Surrey, and a Pattullo Bridge replacement, Smith acknowledged that bus riders in the region might get some relief if the referendum succeeds.

      “In the short term, they’ll have some more buses,” the West Vancouver mayor said.

      The 10-year mayors’ council vision includes a 25 increase in bus service in the Lower Mainland. It would add 400 more buses to the existing fleet of 1,830.

      The plan would also increase the existing three B-Line or limited-stop routes to 14, adding 159 new buses and 200 kilometres of new service.

      Who decides what gets rolled off first from the transit vision is one more reason why Smith just doesn’t agree with the referendum announced last year by Premier Christy Clark.

      While most mayors will be asking their residents to vote “Yes”, it’s the board of TransLink that prepares such things as capital projects, service levels, and the like.

      “You can’t have this where you got an independent board of directors, you got the mayors’ council, and you have the province. It doesn’t work. You got three masters,” Smith said.

      Another reason why the mayor opposes the referendum process is the prospect of what’s going to happen if it fails.

      “What do we suppose to do?” Smith asked. “Have no new busing in the Metro area for the next 30 years? I mean the whole thing is just such a flawed process. That’s why I couldn’t support it.”

      There’s no Plan B either.

      “That’s the point. This whole thing is so bizarre, it’s just tragic, really,” Smith said.

      And if the referendum doesn’t succeed, mayors are left with practically nothing, he noted.

      “None. We don’t have any cards because we can’t approve any new funding source. And we don’t have control over the organization [TransLink]. We can’t even mandate that TransLink make any cuts to put more buses on the road. We don’t have control over anything. So it’s a mess,” Smith said.

      Smith said that he will not campaign for a “No” vote because that would be unfair to his fellow mayors.

      When the transit referendum campaign comes around the corner, Smith is likely going to be on the sidelines.

      As the West Vancouver mayor himself noted, he’ll be pretty much “indifferent” to it all.




      Dec 16, 2014 at 11:51am

      I'll vote no.
      That 250 million will vanish into a black hole & very little will change. I'm surprised that people are still gullible enough to believe political promises.
      It also sets a bad precedent. If this vote passes, voters will be asked to pony up more taxes every time they turn around, whether for increased services or to prevent a reduction in existing service.
      Let gov't increase taxes on corporations and reinstate the tax on banks that Campbell got rid of


      Dec 16, 2014 at 12:13pm

      Mayor Smith brings nothing to the table because his municipality doesn't stand to gain anything. Not that it needs any improvement for it's demographic either. So if he can't offer anything constructive then he should just shut up and not comment at all.

      Enough of this BS from the Mayors.

      Dec 16, 2014 at 12:20pm

      They have the power to mandate any service increases AND pay for it all tomorrow with an increase in property taxes. This issue here is that they want to hang a tax increase on other levels of government since their own municipal spending is completely out of control.

      When you combine their exploding budgets with the anti-tax climate created by the HST you have a huge mess. No politician is going to risk their job putting through a tax increase anymore. The best part is that the whole tax referendum mess was started by the lefties and traditional transit advocates in this province. Maybe the socialist windbags (like Tieleman) should have thought twice about blowing a hissy fit, and demanding a referendum, over such a minor tax like the HST. You’re getting what you deserve.

      The icing on the cake is that this plan is a joke. Don’t fall for their scare tactics. Take a look at what other successful cities have done and you will realize how out to lunch, and beholden to developer interests, these Mayor are.

      Efficent Cost Effective Transit Not Waste

      Dec 16, 2014 at 12:46pm

      I am for efficent Transit accountable governance not waste as is the case currently.

      "...we don’t have control over the organization [TransLink]. We can’t even mandate that TransLink make any cuts to put more buses on the road. We don’t have control over anything. So it’s a mess,” Smith said.

      Until Translink is really accountable & eliminates the gross waste of hard Tax dollars no further funding should be provided.

      Translink Waste

      - $171 ++ Million for useless Fare Gates + $10++ per year to operate to save less than $4 Million in "fare evasion" only a moron would execute such a flawed business plan,

      - $145 Million + per year for the Canada Line sub contract when it could have been done in house to operate the Canada Line after all why does Translink exist if they don't operate their own Train Line?

      - $25++ Million per year for Translink own Police force to issue tickets, this would be far more effective if the Translink Police were part of a Regional Police force to combat serious crime rather than be $100K per year +++ ticket enforcers,

      - $20++ Million for layers of security and sub-contractors when only one security outfit is needed not Translink security than Translink Police than sub contractors that's a grossly bloated overstaffed and ultimately ineffective use of resources,

      - $160 (Federal money) ++ $30 Million (Translink current budget) in unecessary over priced renovations at existing stations some of which like Metro Town are purely cosmetic, while cutting back Bus service, this money would be better spent on adding capacity vs cosmetic station upgrades!!!,

      - $500K to $1 Million ++ cost paid by Translink per Bus, Global Competitive bidding would reduce that cost by 50% +++!!!,

      - Gross overpayment of Executive Pay compare that to Washington State a system that is double our size they pay their Transit Execs 50% to 80% less!

      There are many more examples of waste $100's of millions per year in waste.

      Now they want more your Ca$H!

      I say get your house in order fire the bloated beauracy & bring in strict accountability for operating budgets and expenditures before giving them any more Cash.

      It's like giving a Crack Head more free Crack yeah that's a bad idea!


      Dec 17, 2014 at 8:11am

      "- $171 ++ Million for useless Fare Gates + $10++ per year to operate to save less than $4 Million in "fare evasion" only a moron would execute such a flawed business plan,"

      Yes, but when the plan was announced it was sound judgement and the same people who are bashing Translink for it now are the same ones who bashed Translink for not installing them in the first place and relying on the 'honesty' of the average citizen, which underestimated the rising number of scumbag sociopaths in Metro Vancouver - which incidentally mirrors the rise in hit and run accidents.

      The physical aspect of the evasion prevention system has failed us, but not the idea. Please quit pretending that you can see in to the future.


      Dec 17, 2014 at 8:43am

      Hatred of government (even if legitimate) has deeply pernicious effects on all of us. Goverment is the means by which we distribute benefits to everyone. Some level of "corruption" or inefficency in government services is inevitable. Though complaining about this may be legitimate, in the end, to defund the government to solve the problem is akin to taking bread from your own mouth. The government you hate and (defund) today will tommorow be the one evicting you from your house to build a new condo (and enrich developers) tomorrow.

      Peter Dimitrov

      Feb 16, 2015 at 1:23am

      You go into a grocery store plunk your money down and you know what goods you have purchased and what you get. What the Mayor of North Vancouver is saying - there are no guarantees...if you vote for the tax - the 980,000 residents of the lower mainland will pay $2.5 billion and have no idea which if any parts of the Mayor's plan will get implemented, if any. If senior governments don't pony up the money nothing will go ahead! Neither Christy Clark nor Harper want to raise corporate taxes for public expenditures. In 2001 the BC corporate tax rate was 16.5% and when Christy Clark got elected it was down to 10% - and during that period BC lost about $13 billion in corporate tax revenues, hence the austerity slash and burn budgets, the large increases to Medicare premiums, the closing of schools, the use of P3's, etc. Harper did the same for his buddies. Corporate Canada now sits on over $600 billion of monies due to all the tax cuts. Yet you...average Joe and Jane, students with high debt loads, seniors, those on disability, the working poor -ought NOT to support yet another tax to take more money from you. Look to the movement in Spain and Greece - ordinary people who are telling the bankers and the large corporate sector they have had enough of the B.S. Vote NO to Tran$Link taking more of your money. Demand the BC Chamber of Commerce and the BC Business Council support a corporate tax increase to pay for public infrastructure in this country. Demand also that the Bank of Canada be used as a no-interest source for public funding of infrastructure projects. If you expand this crazzy expensive Tran$link system where will the money come to operate it each year: increased fares, and a variety of other taxes, fees, and takes. Maybe it is time to question capitalism's insatiable demand for growth. Maybe its time to ask the question: are there ways we can prevent or slow down the population growth of the metro Vancouver region by offering incentives for people to live elsewhere in this Province or country. One thing for sure, where-ever there is a Skytrain expansion the big money property developers will be there to densify and gentrify the neighbourhoods, is that what you want? I am on the left of the political spectrum. I have read all of Naomi Klein's latest book "This Changes Everything", tax the rich, stand-up for your rights.