The CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade says a referendum on transit expansion was misguided from the outset and Premier Christy Clark must now help educate voters to stave off defeat.
Anita Huberman made the comments this morning, hours before the Surrey business organization was set to host the premier for a speech on the government’s just-released budget at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford hotel.
“I am concerned,” Huberman said of the prospect for a No vote that would block a proposed 0.5 per cent regional sales tax and the accompanying $7.5-billion worth of transit and transportation projects.
“If we don’t get these investments, our economy and ability to attract business will be in jeopardy.”
She said it was a mistake for Clark to promise a referendum on new tax sources to fund transit and said the Surrey Board of Trade believes politicians are elected to make hard decisions on such critical issues.
“This plebiscite should not even be taking place – It’s too complex a subject for the population to even consider,” Huberman said.
SBOT wants the government to commit to never hold such a referendum again.
She did not offer a specific prescription of what Clark could do to aid the Yes campaign, but Huberman said the premier needs to act to help rebuild public confidence in TransLink, which she said was further damaged by the decision to replace its CEO.
“We want her and the transportation minister to really try to push the Yes vote,” she said. “The challenge is we have a very short period of time to explain what the investments will be and some people don’t even know what a B-Line bus is.”
But while the SBOT is an active partner in the Yes campaign, one of its positions could actually unravel the regional plan if it gets any traction.
It wants the new Pattullo Bridge to remain untolled – a problematic demand since the Metro Vancouver mayors’ plan is predicated on tolls paying for nearly all of the billion-dollar bridge replacement project.
Huberman wouldn’t say how the toll revenue needed to build the new bridge should be replaced or whether the money should come out of other capital projects in the plan.
“What we’re hearing from the business community is they need a way to get out of the city for their businesses without having another bridge tolled.”
SBOT is also advocating for a phase two plan for light rail to extend to Cloverdale and South Surrey, which is currently promised a B-Line express bus.