NDP MLA urges Premier Christy Clark to hit campaign trail for yes vote in transit referendum

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      The NDP critic for TransLink has challenged Premier Christy Clark to publicly campaign for a yes vote in the upcoming transit referendum.

      During an interview at the Georgia Straight building, Vancouver-Fairview NDP MLA George Heyman said that a yes vote is imperative for the provincial economy to address traffic congestion and the movement of goods and services. He pointed out that B.C. transportation minister Todd Stone said he’s “committed to success” in the transit referendum, whereas Clark promised not to take a position when mail-in ballots are distributed to voters, likely in March.

      “Instead, the whole future of the region and B.C.’s economy is being held hostage to one of Christy Clark’s populist election promises,” Heyman said. “You know, she says what she thinks people want to hear and then she does whatever she wants, and, routinely, it’s not in the best interest of the people of British Columbia that she was elected to represent and serve.”

      (Local media outlets reported this week that Stone has stated the province will support but not fund the yes side, and that Clark plans to vote yes.)

      Heyman said that there’s a broad coalition of business interests, environmentalists, unions, and NDP MLAs who are all willing to promote a yes vote. He also insisted that delays in bringing about much-needed transit infrastructure have reduced the productivity of the workforce.

      “I am committed to vigorously supporting this referendum and trying to get information out to people,” he said. “This isn’t a matter of spending a bit more in tax or not. It’s a matter of spending a bit more in tax to get a more livable region and a better economy in the region—or spending probably a lot more later and getting a worse result because we waited too long to make improvements.”

      TransLink’s mayors’ council supports a suite of projects, including expanded bus service, three light-rail lines in Surrey, and a Broadway subway from VCC-Clark Station to Arbutus Street. The referendum asks voters if they support these additional expenditures, which would be financed by a 0.5-percent addition to the provincial sales tax.

      However, it will take more than a yes vote for the rapid-transit projects to be developed over the next decade. In addition, the federal and provincial governments will each have to contribute one-third of the cost of a subway and light-rail lines.

      Meanwhile, Surrey mayor Linda Hepner has promised light rail to her residents even if the transit referendum fails. The Straight asked Heyman if he thinks the B.C. Liberals are willing to fund rapid transit in Surrey even if the referendum doesn’t gain majority support.

      “That’s a very important region,” Heyman said. “It’s been underserved. I think that’s a priority to provide better transit in that area. Whether the Liberals are consciously hoping for a no vote for the area as a whole and then will proceed unilaterally on areas south of the Fraser, that’s anyone’s guess. But to do so would still leave vast holes in the needed infrastructure that’s serviced by TransLink.”

      He specifically mentioned how a yes vote would lead to improvements to the West Coast Express and SeaBus, additional bus hours, new B lines, and a solution to congestion along the Broadway corridor.

      “Now it’s true every single constituency along that corridor, along Broadway, is held by the NDP, but surely the role of the provincial government is to think long-term, to understand the impacts on not just the individuals who live in this area but the economy as a whole, and to act in the best interests of the system. For them to simply say, ‘We’re going to wait for a no vote and then try to find some way to satisfy a certain constituency of people with light rail in one area,’ they could have done that several years ago. It would be highly cynical and it would be the wrong thing to do.”

      Heyman also criticized the premier for announcing a new bridge across the Fraser River to replace the George Massey Tunnel, which isn’t part of the referendum. Even though Heyman claimed that this project was announced without any “viable studies” being conducted, he has no intention of bringing forward a private member’s bill to let voters decide on the George Massey Tunnel replacement.

      “I’m not going to do that because my position on this has been consistent,” Heyman said. “The referendum is the wrong approach. People elect governments to look at all of the spending priorities and capital-project needs throughout the province and to prioritize them and to make sound decisions in the interests of people and the economy. Now, we all know that sometimes that gets politicized, and that’s not a good thing. But to throw the future of the region and B.C.’s economy at the mercy of a referendum for which there is no real tradition in the Canadian political system is, I think, just a mistake, and one I hope is not repeated.”



      Snooze Button

      Jan 7, 2015 at 12:14am

      My vote is No. Since Translink is a cesspool of corruption and hopelessly pathetic management, why throw good money after bad? Fire about nineteen of the twenty eight political patronage vice presidents for starters.


      Jan 7, 2015 at 7:36am

      Snooze Button is making the ignorant choice but also, I'm afraid, the winning choice. While there may be corruption in government, the income inequality promoted by Jim Pattison, Conrad Black and others of their ilk and the tendencies toward tyrannical government promoted by the energy industry (and aided and abetted by those who drive private vehicles) is far more dangerous and insidious.

      Instead of depriving Translink of much needed revenue we should be picketing the offices of the Discovery Institute instead. Hatred of Translink is tantamount to letting energy CEO's steal your money. Translink at least gives you something for what they take.


      Jan 7, 2015 at 8:41am

      You get what you pay for. As someone who values good, fast transportation, I'm willing to pay a bit more sales tax for this. What we save by underspending on transit we pay back in time, hassle, and gridlock many times over.

      I would have preferred another funding option. I'd prefer the Province paid for it from general revenues (like they did with the Golden Ears Bridge and Sea to Sky upgrade, and will be doing with the Massey replacement). But bottom line: we need more transit service, and that isn't free.


      Jan 7, 2015 at 12:50pm

      There's no doubt that transportation needs to be improved and new lines built, but the problem with Trans link is that they act like there's a bottomless hole for funding.

      Current Translink revenue sources include:
      - Property Taxes
      - Fuel Taxes
      - Parking Taxes
      - Power Levy (BC Hydro)
      - Transit Fares, Bridge Tolls

      Unless Translink is revamped with full and transparent accountability, most people will definitely vote No and you cannot blame them.

      Jim Ervin

      Jan 7, 2015 at 1:30pm

      It's obvious to me that we'll never have a better transit system, no matter how much money they throw at it because Christy and friends at all levels plan to keep increasing the population of this area which will keep sytrains and buses filled to the gunnels. The first words out of Tod Stone's mouth recently when he came on the radio were that we could expect another million people over the next ten years. And do any of us who are aleady here have the right to say no to these population increases? Of course not. How about a referendum on that issue?
      Add to that situation all the wasteful overspending of the current system. The most glaring example to me is the elevated Skytrain stations which require escalators and elevators which often break down like the Skytrains themselves. If ground level stations had been built, maybe there'd have been more money for seating for passengers in the waiting area and washrooms. Even if they just took out the stupid, non working Compass Card posts in the stations, there'd be more money for passenger conveniences. And do we really need a seperate Transit Police Force with their own police cars? I wouldn't mind collecting their hundred thou or so annual pay, though. If you like beuorocratic monsters, just throw more money at transit.
      But don't forget also that this vote is non binding on the Christy government. If the no side wins as I suspect might happen, they can just ignore it and raise the sales tax a half a percent or whatever anyhow. How's that for a democracy, a sham democracy.
      Considering the expected increases in population and the continuing situation of crowded transit facilities, half hour waits for a bus in evening and on weekends among many other things, you're going to drive and I'm going to drive whenever possible. When does all the big spending and big growth stop if we don't start saying no to it?


      Jan 8, 2015 at 12:24am

      (Local media outlets reported this week that Stone has stated the province will support but not fund the yes side, and that Clark plans to vote yes.)
      How will Christy be voting, when she lives in Kelowna?

      You know...

      Jan 8, 2015 at 12:26am

      Christy promised us a vote.

      She never promised she would honour the result.

      Martin Dunphy

      Jan 8, 2015 at 1:43am


      Thanks for the post. When this article was written, Stone's staff had not yet sent out that particular release. However, it does not change the thrust of the piece, which is Heyman calling for open campaigning for the Yes vote by the premier, as opposed to moral support from the sidelines.

      Evil Eye

      Jan 8, 2015 at 7:16pm

      I find it disconcerting that the tentacles of SNC Lavalin (who own half the SkyTrain proprietary railway) have reached so far into the NDP, further it seems than the BC Liberals. It seems the NDP want to lose the next election and the election after that.

      The current plan will not reduce congestion and a subway will greatly increase operating costs. Giving TransLink more money is like pissing on a fire, never not enough liquid to put out the fire.


      Jan 10, 2015 at 4:41am

      My vote is NO, the B.C. Liars have B.C. $170 Billion in debt and counting with two more YEARS of Cluck and her gang.