June 19, 2015

Referendum Post-Mortem: Tessa Holloway


Price Tags will be posting a lot of post-referendum analysis.  (We welcome your submissions!)  It’s not too early to begin.  Here’s the first from regular PT commenter Tessa Holloway:


You and others talked before the referendum about the need to put a face to transit in the region. I remember you suggesting in the Vancouver Sun someone like Trevor Linden .

Looking back at the referendum process, I’d like to ask the question of whether there was a face to the yes side and, if so, who? And how did they perform? Was it Gregor Robertson, although he has never seemed to appeal to the entire region, rather just the city of Vancouver? Was it Bill Tieleman, who popped up for a few debates? Was it Todd Stone, B.C. Transportation Minister? Was there anyone?

I ask because I don’t think this advice was heeded, and with serious consequences. I can’t think of anyone who truly spoke for transit for the entire region, not just one specific part, and did so with consistently and a respected voice. Not like the no campaign, which had very strong direction from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. It makes me wonder if in fact the urbanists in this region need a Tax Federation-style organization to push a more urbanist agenda in a manner that is consistent, organized and unencumbered by the political constraints that TransLink and the various mayors have.

If not, then how are we going to overcome the public relations deficit that Translink has accrued? Because despite the professional plaudits that TransLink gets from organizations and leaders within the transit field, if there’s one thing that this referendum has proven, it lacks credibility among the very people it serves, and it currently has few friends in Vancouver’s political circles.

Whether or not the referendum result is for the yes or the no sides, that’s got to change.

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  1. To reiterate my earlier comment re the referendum, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is funded by the Koch brothers, hence the skillful and effective manipulation of the NO campaign. The Koch brothers have provided resources to thwart transit initiatives all over north America. They are way better at this stuff than the Yes side and have vast financial resources.

    1. I am glad someone speaks for the tax payer. It won’t be unionized overpaid civil servants, but usually business people and those in the top 20-25% earning range being raked over the coals as 50% or more of their earning is legally confiscated to fund inefficiencies and unnecessary expansion of the civil servant apparatus. Look no further than Greece or Detroit to see what the extreme end of this looks like.

      1. They do not speak for the taxpayer. ‘They’ are just a mouth piece elected by no one speaking out the side of their ass. Why they continue to get press as though they are representative of anything is beyond me.

        1. Sure it speaks for tax payers. Hence its name. If you open the “white owl protection society” and write letters & start campaigning about protecting white owls than you too speak for owls, as an example.

          The taxpayer associations speak out about tax abuse, i.e. inefficiencies and/or the excess level of taxation. Everyone understands we need some level of taxation. The big question is: “How much taxation is enough” and the second, less often asked question is “Are our taxes efficiently used to deliver required services?” and the third, even less often asked question is “what services are required and should be paid for by taxes, and which ones could or should be delivered by other means?” All three questions clearly are related to this transit discussion.

    2. Well said Andrew, sure Jordan Bateman had loads of money. What did he spend, $40,000 ?

      What the Mayors’ Council say they spent, oh yes six million dollars. Plus the cities spent a bunch of cash too.

      Tell us again Andrew, who has these vast resources you speak of?

  2. Tessa,

    Right on! Not only was there no face to the campaign, there were no faces. The Yes advertising was the No side’s dream: publicly funded and all text (which, as I regularly observed in Skytrain stations, almost nobody glanced at as they hurried by). Not a single face to attract attention. Imagine an ad agency that does not know that our species likes to look at each other. Imagine a client that fails to appreciate that. Have none of them looked at magazine ads? Television commercials?

    Translink is, by nearly every measure I’ve seen, an organization that does a very good job of delivering service to its customers. Its problem is a textbook case of a deficient, even disastrous communications strategy.

    Perhaps they are learning. On the Skytrain on Saturday, as we arrived at the New West station, we came to an abrupt stop and the doors stayed closed. Worried glances all around.

    Then, within 15 seconds, a clear, calm voice came over the train speakers: ‘We apologize for your train’s sudden stop. There was an intrusion alarm at New Westminster Station.’ Moments later the doors opened, and customers were informed and satisfied.

  3. As Bob Mackin tells us with Richard Walton, the Mayor of North Vancouver District being quoted, after returning from another fact-finding trip (don’t you just love them! Yay, we’re off on another fact finding trip. Time to pack.): “I was replaced by Gregor (Robertson of Vancouver) in the election on Jan. 9. When this next came back it was about month ago and Gregor had contacted as chair, Jim Pattison. …”

    I wonder if Jimmy put up ads for the Yes side in his car dealerships. I’m sure everyone down at the Pattison coal port voted Yes. It’s only about 25 km from Burnaby and it must be a nice flat bike ride on a sunny morning. With all those trucks heading to the container port a dedicated and separated bike lane seems like a no brainer.

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