December 23, 2015

Listening to Ladner-how do we fund regional transportation?

Peter Ladner has always been ahead of his time. I remember when as a Councillor at City Hall  he gave up his parking spot for a bike rack, way way before biking was popular.
In Business in Vancouver Peter weighs in at the end of  the year on an uncomfortable and very major  issue for Metro Vancouver mayors, communities and residents-how we obtain a regional transit and transportation plan, and how we get that paid.
Titled “2015 Unfinished Business-Mayors’ Transportation Plan” Peter says the following:
“Without TransLink reform or a new referendum, the premier’s most reasonable course of action is to waive the one-third regional funding requirement, as the feds have hinted they would. Having the province pick up the difference would be costly, but it could bring in timely federal funding that would otherwise go elsewhere. In Greater Toronto, the province is picking up 87% of its $12.3 billion total bill for transit improvements. The region is paying 4% with the feds covering the rest.
According to a recent article by Nathan Woods of Unifor and Tom Sigurdson of the BC Building Trades Council, none of the other urban competitors for the federal money – including Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary – require one-third local funding.
Interestingly, B.C.’s two ministers went to Ottawa with the new, $3 billion Massey Bridge on their wish list, along with the bridge and transit projects from the Mayors’ Plan. Perhaps a federal contribution to the Massey Tunnel replacement could free up provincial money to fill the regional transit-funding gap?”
Read Peter’s full column below.

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  1. I understand that when Justin and Gregor met behind closed doors Justin mocked Christy’s “sustainable 10 lane freeway” so hard to see any Federal money going there

      1. That would be a shame as the bridge will be built, regardless of federal $s. Gregor’s days are numbered and his view on a bridge outside his green Vancouver-myopic jurisdiction is utterly meaningless. Unclear why he did not resign the chair position of the MetroVan Mayors Council on Transportation after the referendum was lost. Power matters to him obviously. Real world, job creating, traffic flowing infrastructure and what tax payers think: meh .. mere sideshows !
        Perhaps in time we’ll move the container port in Vancouver to newly created land in the shallow mudflats off Delta and Tsawwassen. Then for sure we’d need a new bridge for all the truck traffic between Richmond, Delta and Surrey and the various ports !
        Vancouver will then become even more a residential area with high-rises, a new Yaletown, where the current container port is.

          1. @N; Robertson supported the referendum from day 1.
            “… a 0.5 per cent hike in B.C.’s Provincial Sales Tax to fund new transit projects, during a referendum next year. The proposal was approved by the majority of Metro Vancouver mayors, …Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who voted in support,
            It passed by a count of 109 to 19, under the weighted voting system of the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council. “. CBC Dec 11, 2014.
            Who was the Council Chair, with the most votes? Gregor.
            Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan cast the only “no” vote.
            Corrigan says he hasn’t seen any evidence to support the fact that the province is going to listen regarding these mega-projects. “We should be looking at what we can do to make the bus system work very effectively and stop dreaming in Technicolor.”
            In January 2014 Christy Clark said she would postpone the referendum if the Mayors were not ready with their plan and if they would like to wait. Todd Stone said he would be prepared to discuss with the Mayors a regional Carbon Tax, if that was what the Mayors wanted. Mayor Derek Corrigan could see the future. ” Derek Corrigan said he expects Clark and Stone may have realized the referendum will fail, likely because none of the mayors, including Surrey’s Watts or Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson — who helm B.C.’s biggest cities — are willing to step up to the plate.
            “What they’re discovering is there isn’t much hope of passing this referendum to begin with, and in this short timeframe, it’s impossible, so what you’re doing is setting this referendum up for failure,” Corrigan said.
            Who should resign?

    1. George; I guess Justin was biting his tongue really hard as he contemplated his recent commitment to the $5 billion toll-free bridge in Montreal which is just about to be built.

      1. Why is it toll-free ?
        a) because JT has his riding in Montreal ?
        b) because Montreal is in Quebec ?
        c) all of the above ?

  2. Peter Ladner conveniently forgets to mention that the Province of Ontario has no money. It has the most debt per capita of any sub-nation IN THE WORLD. How can this be a good plan ?
    Fiscal responsibility is an item that matters, not just more spending.
    As such letting cities off the hook, i.e. not allowing them to fund – via higher taxes or more efficient spending such as reduced civil servants salaries & benefits – is the wrong approach.
    Citizens are being duped that ( transit ) services are free when in fact they are not !

  3. Perhaps this is a good opportunity for the BC NDP to start focusing and iterating out loud on planning for better urban transit in the Metro and other dense areas as a serious job creation, economic stimulus and climate mitigation measure in preparation for the next election. This would differentiate them from the clearly unsustainable Clarkian vision of tarmacked landscapes, sinkhole operating costs and steadily increased provincial debt. It would also align better with the new federal environmental initiatives than the BC Lib’s twisted logic on emissions.
    Cities have been downloaded on for 40 years and shortchanged with respect to receiving a fair share of tax revenue taken by the big ham fists of senior governments from the points of generation within urban borders. The six largest cities generate 50% of the nation’s GDP. Its a very good thing that we finally have a federal government that recognizes this.

    1. Actually we have to reduce federal tax burdens and allow cities to tax more so that cities can fund what they deem appropriate.
      Unfortunately that is not done.
      We have high federal taxes, soon higher ( on incomes , corporations and most likely soon, GST ) and as such we go exactly in the wrong direction. We need to reduce federal taxes so that cities can tax cars, properties, incomes or consumption more as more and more people live in cities but keep the overall tax burden similar to today, per person.
      It is utterly ridiculous to ask folks from PEI, Prince George or Kelowna to fund transit in MetroVan via GST or PST or income taxes derived there.
      Canada’s taxation system needs a thorough review. It is too top heavy. Of course efficient services delivery needs special attention, conveniently swept under the carpet as it is difficult to implement.
      MetroVan has the tools to increase taxes, although it needs road tolls. Then councils can vote for an increase on residential parking fee, property tax, development levy or road tolls / congestion charges. Local folks can then vote for or against it. But to do that we have to reduce provincial and federal consumption and especially income taxes.
      There is no free lunch, however, and as such irresponsible voters vote for irresponsible politicians that promise the moon, such as our new federal liberal government and end up drowning this formerly well run country in debt, at least $20B in 2016 and likely far higher, over $30B if they actually implement all proposed transit plans.
      Party now, pay tomorrow as a strategy usually ends up with a hangover !
      Red ink to the rescue ? That is a suggested strategy here ?

    2. UPDATE: In the Dec 30 Sun headline article the BC NDP plan to include any increase in the carbon tax rate for direct funding of “green projects like public transit” and are willing to put that in their 2017 election campaign. Now that is a vote that will count.
      This differs from the BC Libs who prefer to be “sound fiscal managers” and continue the debt spiral by making oceans of asphalt and touting LNG as the Holy Grail.

      1. The carbon tax might work better in BC if it is revenue neutral i.e. taxation is shifted over time from income to fossil fuel use. If income tax is not reduced but carbon tax gradually increased, the overall tax burden grows for many people and there might be a backlash against the carbon tax. Also reducing income tax ensures any government keeps the carbon tax, including the current one.

      2. A couple of years ago Todd Stone offered regional Carbon Tax revenue for transit if the Mayors wanted it.
        What the NDP is suggesting is quite different from the “Axe the Tax” campaign they ran. Oh well, anything for a buck.

  4. Since Peter Ladner has been there, I would like to hear from him why the mayors just don’t raise property taxes and fund transit from that. If they feel that strongly about an efficient transit system why not use the one tool they have?
    Sure, it’s obvious that Christy is trying to force them to that action, but so what? If you feel passionately about the outcome then get some political courage and just do it.

    1. Because the councilors and the mayors know the populace doesn’t like it ! As such, it is far easier to blame the evil province and blame them for not giving them more money ! City councils and mayors could, but chose not to:
      a) cut spending especially high salaries and benefits for its employees
      b) increase property taxes
      c) increase parking fees, especially on clogged residential streets
      d) increase development levies

  5. Peter says that everyone wants what’s in the Mayors’ Plan but they voted No because of a .5% tax. What makes you think that Peter? What I heard was that people did not like the plan and do not want to give more money to TransLink.

    1. For the 99th time, the vote was on an infant tax. The No hordes twisted that into a self-indulgent rant on anything but, including lists of pet peeves about TransLink, the mayors, the weather, the neighbour’s barking dog, etc. etc. that ignored evidence.
      Such is the nature of referenda that are not allowed to be conducted in a professional manner and are thus subject to mob rule. I much prefer a real election.

  6. More on the irresponsibility of Ontario’s transit funding model, soon coming to the whole of Canada, and perhaps to BC with an NDP spend spend spend government: more and more debt and less and less government funding available for other services due to increased annual debt payment, now approaching $840/person or $3300/family of four PER YEAR:
    Ontario’s debt is TWICE that of California, which has three times the population and now has a debt-to-GDP ratio approaching 50%.

    1. Hmmm. According to Google Earth Victoria is 3,262 km from the GTA, and is run by a completely different crowd, no matter who is in power in either capital.
      And in knowing that I was born under the extremely well-managed CCF government of Tommy Douglas in Saskatchewan, a fellow who piled up 21 (twenty one!) consecutive balanced budgets while also implementing North America’s first public health care system and other progressive measures still relatively intact to this day even with the scorched Earth policies of several conservative governments there, I can say that from an historic perspective, Thomas, yer full of it.
      I also note that Mulroney piled on the red ink for eight years far, far exceeding the deficits of his nemesis, P.E. Trudeau, only to be brought under control by the following Liberal government. It’s also just a tad interesting to note that Harper created the largest deficit in Canadian history.
      But please don’t let facts get in the way of an interesting ideological yarn.

      1. Any budget can be easily balanced if taxes are high enough. The trick is not to only balance a budget but to be prudent spender AND keep taxes LOW AND balance a budget. SK before Brad Wall was a disaster. Look where they are today: one of the best, if not THE best performing province in Canada due to tight fiscal spending and low taxes ! BC is close but spend too much and its taxes are too high, but far better than AB now or ON or PQ or the federal debt building vote buying machine !