March 13, 2015

Referendum Editorial: Tri-City News


Buses vs TransLink is at heart of referendum


News flash: New referendum poll finds strong lead for No side.

When everyone wakes up after the votes are counted and the 0.5% transit tax has been voted down, if the polls are to be believed, who will notice?

Buses will still be crowded during rush hour. Traffic will still be gridlocked at choke points throughout the region. And buses will run infrequently at night or not at all.

Of course, No spokesperson Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation will be pleased and can update his LinkedIn account to apply for better jobs while Premier Christy Clark can check off an election campaign promise, a referendum on transportation financing that was doomed from the start.

Let’s face it, as we know from the HST vote, it’s hard to convince people to pay more taxes now for a future benefit but easy to tap into public anger about government spending, regardless of how out of context or inaccurate the information on which the anger is based.

TransLink is the straw man in this debate — also the scapegoat and the scourge — and to beat down this perceived demon, people would rather have crappy roads and transit well into the future.

It’s crazy but in the aftermath of the transit referendum, it will be too late to reconsider.

That’s because the only opportunity to prove that the Yes side might have been right won’t come for another 10 or 20 years.

By then, many of the folks who are on different sides of this vote will be retired or dead, and their kids will be dealing with the fallout from referendum results.

These are today’s college and high school students who will be saddled with the hefty retirement pensions for those who voted against the proposed sales tax hike. They’re the ones who will be sitting in gridlock or waiting for buses and who will see good jobs disappear to places with better transportation infrastructure.

They might wonder, those taxpayers of tomorrow, whether an opportunity to do something better was lost along the way.

But that’s OK, because we’ll have given TransLink a smack on the nose and, for today at least, that seems to be the most important thing.

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  1. Indeed transit ( or TransLink ) is the scapegoat. It might as well have been healthcare, roads, social services, schools, parks or policing services.

    The issue is for elected politicians to realize that there is only a fixed amount of public $s available, and that they have to make sound decisions to reallocate that money across the myriads of services required by governments. I am very surprised that public sector unions have not been whacked over the head by the newspapers or other folks as cost of services delivery is a critical issue, ie excessive pay, benefits and especially defined benefit pensions, indxed to age 95+.

    If a no will prevail – yet to be seen btw – MetroVan councils with the provincial government have many many revenue tools at their disposal that would actually reduce congestion, starting with higher parking fees and road tolling at select choke points. Then they can, and should, go to land transfer taxes, property taxes, gasoline taxes, increased user fees and/or more borrowing. Many funding options exist, and if the province takes on debt for PM bridge or Massey tunnel, why not for subways, more buses, more SkyTrains, more SeaBuses or fast B line traffic light signaling infrastructure as they are all investments not operating expenses, ie they can still show a balanced budget.

    Perhaps N-Van and Vancouver will fund the SeaBus alone while Surrey funds its LRT alone .. many options ! Maybe UBC might even chip in a few hundred million from its billion $ war chest for a Broadway line all the way to UBC.

    Many car drivers would actually welcome road tolls or fast speed toll lanes as they will get a benefit, namely emptier roads. Win/win all around as that money is then funneled into more rapid transit. Both of these are grotesquely missing from this “decongestion” plan.

  2. I support better transit but I don’t support Translink’s plan.
    I don’t support the details of the plan and I don’t support the management of Translink.
    I don’t agree with giving more money to a public corporation that can’t spend it’s current budget wisely.
    I could support an increase in tax if I thought it would be well spent but no one on the yes side of the debate has given me any indication that would happen.
    Translink and the Mayors and the Provincial government have to do better!

    1. @tf: You support transit, but not the “TransLink’s Plan” (technically, it’s the Mayor’s Plan). That seems contradictory to me. How does not supporting the plan support better transit?

      Please share with us what your vision for better transit is and it should be funded?

      1. I am conflicted in my vote as, on the one hand, I believe we need far more transit, especially rapid transit, and less car use in MetroVan. On the other hand I think we are taxed highly enough, public sector wages are far too high, buses are far too slow and cars are not sufficiently tolled in this band aid of a plan.

        Many other funding options exist that are more in line with decongestion and in-migration, specifically parikng fees, road tolls, property taxes, development levies, user fees and land transfer taxes, but also cost savings through wage reductions (or more like less increases).

  3. Don’t be so upset Gordon. Many, many people that will vote No also like transit, efficient transit. I too expect some of those voting on both sides are perfectly good people.

    The vote hasn’t even started.

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