January 22, 2014

Referendum: The ballsiest statement … so far

Frances Bula posted it:

This just out from the Surrey Board of Trade, who don’t sound like happy campers

The Surrey Board of Trade wants the Transit Referendum question now.

“I’ve called the Ministry of Transportation today and they indicated that there was no timeline on when the transit referendum question will be ready. I’ve written a letter asking for the question to be ready now,” said Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade. …

We need the question now – and we need, finally, a solution that will benefit all of Metro Vancouver – and not compromise growing cities like Surrey. Surrey will be the largest city in BC, and yet our transit and transportation systems simply do not meet current and future economic demand. This puts our economic future at risk. This referendum will have far-reaching and even unforeseen impacts. This is an issue that can’t be politicized. Businesses – in terms of the efficient movement of goods and people – are at risk.


Let’s just repeat that: “This is an issue that can’t be politicized.”

Which raises the question: Why are we having a referendum?

Thinks one astute observer: the referendum may be another round in a strategic attack on municipalities and regional government, particularly their ability to tax, shape growth and compete with provincial priorities.

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  1. We don’t need the question now. What we need is the province and regional politians to commit to the process that is required to develop a winnable question. The process includes public and stakeholder engagement as well as polling to determine the transit package and funding sources that people would be most likely to vote for. Developing these takes time and needs to start now.

    The ball is in the Province’s court. It needs to define and commit resources to the process to develop the transit and funding packages. It is rediculous that months after the election they have not done that yet.

    The actual question doesn’t really need to be finalized until 3 months or so before the election.

  2. “What we need is the province and regional politians to commit to the process that is required to develop a winnable question.”

    That assumes they want this to win. They don’t, clearly.

  3. I just don’t see calculated political depth to this strategy that Gordon suggests. I didn’t see an acrimonious relationship between metro and the province, sure there was tension but nothing to scale to suggest that the province was going to aggressively neuter a key file for local government. I further don’t see the provincial transport and municipal transport authorities having all that much friction besides over money, certainly not over actual space. At least not to the point where the province would clandestinely pull rank like this.

    What I see is a series of populist political stumbles uttered by someone without a significant handle of the file at a point in the political cycle where it didn’t seem relevant or consequential anyway. To be clear, I saw the referendum thing as off the cuff election positioning allowing the Liberals to avoid any announcements with significant budget implications going into an election they thought they were going to lose anyway. I just don’t think there was alot of strategy that went into this position beyond brayed electioneering and platitudes. “Oh, I know most of my supporters don’t take transit, I’ll just avoid making any big budget commitments and appear to be democratic by announcing a referendum.” That’s the extend of the thinking. But with the surprise victory painting herself into a corner and then stubbornly deciding to see it through we’ve arrived to this place.

    Unfortunately, it looks like the heat has been turned up so much on this from multiple sources that the Premier feels like she has to see it through.

    Some of the language from Stone suggests that they’re willing to back off. It isn’t all guns blazing forward as Stone has said the referendum isn’t needed should munis do something else. I wonder what it would take for a couple municipalities to go alone? It’s not as crazy as it sounds.

  4. “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice.”

    TransLink governance and funding has been a sore point nearly from the start and the province has never helped fund a major TransLink project without overriding local decision making in the process.

    Some people have tried to suggest our Premier isn’t the sharpest stick, but I consider her rather cunning. She’s managed to avoid association with past scandals, even ones that clearly involved her personal friends and family, and managed to talk the people of BC into re-electing a government with a proven track record of lying, hurting the economy and ignoring the environment. The only other leader I can think of with such a solid coating of political Teflon rules the roost in Canada’s largest city.

  5. My proposal for the referendum question:

    “Should the province and Metro Vancouver cooperate to produce a world-class transportation system for the region?”