June 30, 2015

After the Referendum: What needs to be done?

What actions do I think need to be agreed on after the referendum?

  • No more referenda
  • Reform of TransLink’s governance
  • Reaffirmation of the regional vision, especially of the role of transit in shaping and serving rowth
  • Agreement on funding, initially by postponing the tax cut for the richest 2 percent, using the revenue to provide the infrastructure that actually generates wealth and serves all British Columbians

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    1. Why blame the province ? MetroVan and its 25+ municipalities are big enough and grown up enough to decide what is best for them. Why expect a Kelowna or Prince George resident to pay for buses in Surrey or a subway along Broadway ?

      I’d say we need new local governments that can learn to keep costs, especially labour costs down within a given tax envelope. Labour costs are 80%+ of the municipal budgets and they are 20-25% too high given their low risk of layoffs, shorter hours, early retirement and generous pensions. THAT is where the money can be found for transit, in addition to parking fees for the 400,000+ cars that every night park on roads they do not own – for free.

      Look no further than Detroit, or now Greece, and soon Ontario where excessive labour costs and excessive spending lead to !

      We do not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. Metrovan’s 25+ municipalities have $5B+ annual budget. it is a matter of priorities. Right now it says: “We love cushy civil servants’ salaries & benefits more than fixing transit, homelessness, education, healthcare or education problems !

      The problem is far bigger, of course, than excessively paid civil servants: We have an entitlement mentality by expecting others to pay for our life styles, we do not have enough children to pay for all this debt. More on this here http://www.steynonline.com/7030/big-fat-greeks-and-weddings

      Why pay for the new shiny bus in Surrey if a guy in Kelowna can pay for it. Just like the Greek’s asking the other Europeans to bail them out !

        1. Thomas,

          We live in a society. I pay for bridges in Kelowna just as someone from Prince George pays for buses in Surrey. If we were to follow your philosophy, I can pretty much guarantee you we’d stop building bridges in Kelowna and we’d be building more stuff in Metro Vancouver.

          And you keep going on about how salaries are the problem but refuse to provide facts other than the fraser institute, and those don’t count as facts.

      1. The Metro has 21 municipalities, not 25. The Gang of 21 provides ~53% of the economic activity of the entire province and the lion’s share of total regional tax revenue to both senior governments. The GDP of the Metro rings in at a trillion dollars a decade, yet it occupies less than 1/350th of the province’s land area.

        These are very compelling reasons to treat the Metro with more respect than a beaten child, certainly on par with the very special treatment given to the wealthiest 1/100th of one percent and the red carpet rolled out to Liberal Party private corporate donors (fossil fuels, road builders, run-of-river power, pharmaceuticals, etc.). One day the Metro child will grow up and strive to reach its vast unrealized potential on its own through an elected Metro government. I suspect the province is actually afraid of allowing that kind of challenge to its authority.

  1. The tone of this question presupposes a No.

    Breaking campaign promises only leads to further cynicism and would be decried by the opposition. If the infrastructure you speak of generates wealth then borrowing to build something that generates wealth makes sense.

    If the referendum fails to pass then perhaps a fair and transparent accounting of the expenditures wasted in trying to bribe us into voting is called for. Perhaps Derek Corrigan will demand it. Then, the primary spokespeople for the losing side should honourably bow out, at the very least from the TransLink board.

    Any agreement on future funding by the losing side would be arrogant in the extreme. The only way to reach a quick consensus would be another referendum, this time with multiple choices, this should include possible privatization of segments of the system.

        1. Eric,

          Shall I list the broken promises of this and all governments that we’ve had? The whole high horse thing doesn’t fly. Political promises are made for political gain, don’t be naive.

    1. why did they make such a poorly thought out, leadership-averse and divisive promise in the first place?

      If we’re going to account for every penny spent by the Yes side, I’d like to see exactly who donates all that money to the Canadian Taxpayers Foundation, and exactly who decides what decisions are made by this very murky group. It seems to me that the calls for “accountability” are very one-sided here.

      Privatization of services will do nothing to help Translink, as the only services that would ever be privatized are ones that are profitable. So funds that are currently used to subsidize the rest of the system will instead go to lining the pockets of a private corporation, which won’t spend any more money than Translink does on maintenance.

      A second quick-fire referendum with multiple choices might work, but not if it’s first past the post. Then all we’ll get is 45 per cent for nothing, 15 per cent for “Yes, but this…,” 15 per cent for “Yes, but that,” 15 per cent for “Yes, but woah crazy” and another 10 per cent for “Hey what about this?” That’s hardly a way to win a referendum.

      1. I never said that an audit is called for just one side. Why would you assume that only the Yes side is to be possibly called to account? Are Yes supporters already feeling guilty?

      2. Eric: “I never said that an audit is called for just one side”

        But just before that: “If the referendum fails to pass then perhaps a fair and transparent accounting of the expenditures wasted in trying to bribe us into voting is called for.” Referring presumably to the voter information campaign.

        Are there two Erics? Or did you have a separate post calling for transparency on the Canadian “Taxpayer” Federation funding?

        1. Both sides encouraged us to vote for their position. Both sides presented a voter information campaign. Transparency from both sides is what we deserve.

          If you insist on presuming then you too clearly risk being wrong.

  2. Thomas, who pays for the Kelowna bridge, the Golden Trans Canada Highway upgrades, the proposed Deas Island bridge, the BC Ferries, the free interior lake ferries and the BC Transit services to smaller urban centres-we as citizens of the province. It would be helpful if the federal government as with most Western countries paid its fair share-the US pays 3/4’s of transit in its cities…As with most people, I do not deny the incompetence of Translink’s governance but face up to the fact that transit should be part of the cost for the province as much as highways and the motor industry…Just how much does the trucking industry pay for its use and damage to the highways-subidized per US Transport studies to about 49 percent of the cost of their use. By the way the administrative cost of Translink went up as well as the benefits of the departed CEO..who rules Translink..the province. You also might want to check on the downward income flow to the province from resources due to lowered fees on Free enterprise etc. Taxes down, income down. How much do Greeks pay in taxes? Apparently, they avoid it..

    1. Roads or bridges used on a national or principal highway clearly have to be paid by province or federal government. Not so clear is a local bus system.

      I acknowledge the fact that we pay too much tax on the federal level, leaving too little taxation room for cities where most people live. Property taxes and gasoline taxes are indeed too low, but what has to be fixed first is the excess pay of far too many civil servants bleeding whole countries, regions or cities dry ( see also Ontario debt, California debt, Detroit bankruptcy, Greece bankruptcy, excessive debt of most Western democracies with too few children to pay for it ).

      If the U.S. introduced a gasoline tax of $1/liter and a GST of day 4% the U.S. would be in fine financial shape here actually. Canada is better than overtaxed Europe ( marginal income taxes incl COP/EI usually north of 60%, GST north of 20%) but we are clearly heading that way if the last elections are any indications.

      Why work hard if I can vote myself benefits at someone else’s expense ( ie future generation or the other guy that makes more money ). We do not have a tax problem, we have a spending problem. Overpaid bureaucrats setting too many rules collecting too many taxes delivering too little in services in return. That is why the transit vote will likely be ” no “. It has nothing to do with transit. CUPE chose not to feed the homeless or build rapid transit because the protection of the guild is more important.

      1. Agreed 100%. We are having productivity increase everywhere, but in government sector. Thus it keeps costing more and more to deliver the same service. Any new innovation is treated as a threat to jobs as opposed to opportunity to improve productivity and service. Take for example Uber. Or voting online. Look at the mayor’s transit plan! Same old plan from the 1970s…We are going to add more buses to deal with congestion and the total of 6km of subway on Broadway…Wow, yes that is going to work…Not even a lip service to things that are around the corner or already here like car automation, car sharing, Uber, other online services.

      2. If the Ministry only ran roads that had inter-regional travel (as their stated policies say they do), I wouldn’t object so much. But given most of the roadways controlled by the Ministry are used for local travel, we all pay for it. This is a net flow of tax dollars from the central cities to the sururban and ex-urban areas.

      3. Thomas wrote: “Roads or bridges used on a national or principal highway clearly have to be paid by province or federal government. Not so clear is a local bus system. ”

        Without Vancouver’s buses Vancouver’s workers would have a much harder time getting to the grain and oil terminals that make it possible to sell so much of Canada’s resources. … etc. etc.

        Suggesting that we pay 100% of the share of our own infrastructure implies that we demand the provincial and Federal governments reduce our taxes by the amount they currently spend on us and move towards being entirely self sufficient. That’s really not feasible in today’s interconnected world. It’s an “every man for himself” attitude which is at stark contrast with my view of what makes this such a great country to live in.

        1. You don’t live in a country. You live in a city. We need far more local spending room, and to get that we need more local taxes but ONLY with reduced provincial and federal taxes.

          I do not wish to pay for Ontario’s highly indebted and grossly overspending government, for example. Or a bridge to PEI, an alleged province.

          Our federal taxes are far too high. As you will see in a few minutes when they announce the MetroVan transit tax referendum results, people are sick and tired of more taxes in light of lavishly spending socialist governments ( the latest being a $20 minimum wage for City of Vancouver employees ) where the bulk of spending is on salaries and cushy benefits of their employees. Look no further than Detroit or Greece where the extreme end of this looks like.

          1. “where the bulk of spending is on salaries and cushy benefits of their employees.”

            You keep saying things you never back up with facts.

        2. CFIB (Manitoba): Civil servants 20% overpaid: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/business/cfib-calls-for-deep-cuts-to-civil-servants-salaries-297344221.html

          CFIB: Civil servants’ pensions unsustainable and unfair http://www.cfib-fcei.ca/english/article/5039-public-sector-pensions-unsustainable-and-unfair-canada-s-pension-tension.html

          Facts are facts.

          Consider this recent MetroVan transit “no” vote not a vote against more transit – as we do need more transit, especially non-bus RAPID transit – but a vote on excessive wages & wasteful spending !

      4. Your opinions really do need some peer-reviewed independent economic analyses of the consequences you would impose on society.

        On the other hand you could put your own money where your mouth is and give yourself a voluntary 33% pay cut that you claim should be given to those whom you claim are overpaid public servants. Why not lead by example rather than continue to be this site’s chronic complainer extraordinaire?

  3. Another 12 million dollars given away to their best buddies.

    Each Yes vote cost $40.

    Since Doug Allen became CEO in February he’s earned over $140,000.00, plus free parking and any bonus, of course.

    1. Even if TransLink was totally reformed or eliminated back into BC Transit, there will still have to be highly paid people tasked to continue to run the $10 billion service organization.

      But I betcha the term Fat Cats would not be bandied about half as much if TransLink ceases to be an artificial target for ill-informed anger.

      1. “Ill informed”. People that stand in queues in the rain waiting for a bus don’t really sympathize to double-double CEO’s raking in 400 grand. They don’t think they’re ill informed either and they resent being told they are.

        Occupy Wall Street was based on similar sentiment. Private corporate Fat Cats are just as disgusting as public Fat Cats.

      2. TransLink compared very well to most othjer jurisdictions on the continent, in fact was highly rated overall.

        Your anecdotal experiences are as valid a commentary as the accident that blocked traffic on my commute the other day.

  4. Eric,

    Do you shown this level of disdain for the ‘elite’ when you visit your doctor? Accountant? I sure hope so.

      1. Not my point. One typically doesn’t ignore their doctor because he or she is ‘elite’. One typically doesn’t ignore the structural engineer when designing a bridge because he or she is ‘elite’. My question, why not? Clearly the elite are not be trusted, thumbing their nose at the little man.

      1. Every person votes with their $s, on a daily basis. What shoes to buy, where to shop, where to live, what to eat, whar car to drive or e-bike vs. ten speed etc.

        Some have more $s than others, thus more influence.

        A democracy keeps that in check as corporations do not vote and every vote is equally weighted. That keeps pure capitalism in check. That also keeps pure socialism in check, as we see in Greece right now, for example.

        Governments have to learn to live within their means and not overspend, such as excessive salaries or the wrong projects, like too many wobbly buses. If they allocate money poorly they get replaced.

        Mayors have many options left in their tool kit, as does the province. Perhaps they realize they have to work together on this, each side giving some.

        1. “A democracy keeps that in check as corporations do not vote and every vote is equally weighted. That keeps pure capitalism in check.”

          I’ll keep that in mind when I see government enacting policies that dovetail so well with the interests of their corporate and wealthy donors.

  5. Although as an urban fetishist it was my duty to vote yes, I’m not dissapointed the pleb failed. Other avenues will be found to pay for the transit that we want. The public will be spared a burdensome tax increase. I do not believe spending billions of consumption tax dollars building light rail lines into suburbs and farmer fields is the best way to improve mobility in the city anyways. Simply upzoning more land for higher density around the Canada Line would do vastly more good at no cost. But whatever I guess… the machine chugs along.

    1. Frank wrote: “Other avenues will be found to pay for the transit that we want. The public will be spared a burdensome tax increase.”

      Those two sentences are essentially contradictory. The money to pay from transit will come from the taxpayers. One way or another, we are all going to pay for it. All the referendum has done is waste a lot of time and money and postponed (for who knows how long) transportation improvements that will benefit everyone in the region.

      1. Agreed.

        Now it’s time to remind peple that there is a federal election campaign just kicking into second gear. We need to hear specifics about Metro cities and transit.

        1. And who is working to control the ( heavily unionized ) expense side of the equation ? Asking for more taxes is one thing, delivering services at a low enough price point, as efficiently as possible is quite another ! That is where the focus of both provincial, TransLink and municipal leaders needs to be.

          This “no” vote was not a vote against transit but a vote against CUPE, and its associated entities due to excessive services delivery costs !!

          1. Every politician has the power to get into a fight with unions if they want. I just don’t see a large grass routes campaign to do that.

          2. What is “a low enough price point?” Ten dollars an hour for a coach operator? Five dollars an hour? Being allowed to avoid debtors’ prison?

            Just how low do you want others to go in pursuit of your desire to build your pile of Gold?

            Oh, and by the way, have you noticed all those ads for coach operators? Perhaps the compensation they actually receive is a bit less than that in your perfervid dreams?

  6. I think it is time to go back to basics. What is urban transportation? Why do people take such long trips at exactly the same time of the day? How can a road be deemed congested, when the cars causing the congested are mostly empty? Why are the most shared-ride-positive people leaving their cars at home each day instead of using them to offer ride-sharing and relieving the transit authority from having to add so many extra vehicles/drivers that sit idle most of the day/week? Is everyone ignoring the possibility that ridesharing can grow far beyond Uber-like services to offer on-the-fly rides? Can’t those wanting privacy on public roads be charged dearly for that? Or for using more than a fair share of “footprint”?

    Think out-side-the-box more.

    1. Um, er, I think what you’re proposing is called “car-pooling” and has actually existed since the mid-1960’s. It used to represent a significant portion of home-to-work-to-home trips in both Canada and the US. But since the mid-1990’s its portion has steadily eroded.

      As explanations, most people note the increasingly chaotic nature of what is called “exempt” work in the US: i.e. managers, professional and technical staff, and supervisors. Such people are expected to be a the beck and call of anyone in the organization with a higher box on the chart than theirs every day of the year, regardless of holidays. A carpool doesn’t work for someone who might be expected to work late on Tuesday when that person was the driver on Tuesday. Ooopsie! You folks will just have to find a way home, now”.

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