TransLink referendum doomed, Metro Vancouver mayors warn minister

With no sign of deal, province's plebiscite promise is dogged by doubts, unresolved questions

Transportation Minister Todd Stone.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone.

Metro Vancouver mayors emerged from their first meeting with new Transportation Minister Todd Stone with no deal or even the makings of one on how to restructure TransLink or craft a referendum on transit expansion funding slated for next year.

Mayors also expressed frustration Thursday that the province is pushing ahead with a Massey tunnel replacement bridge that they fear could push back transit as a priority.

They object to the premier’s insistence there be a referendum on new taxes for TransLink, fearing it will be defeated at the polls.

And they continue to take a stance that TransLink must be reformed to give them more control over spending priorities as a precondition for their active participation in a referendum, if the province insists it go ahead.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said he doesn’t see how the referendum can succeed.

“Despite the mayors saying it’s the stupidest idea imaginable they continue on with the referendum, they’re absolutely determined to hold it,” Corrigan said. “And it’s pretty clear that none of us are going to participate.”

He called it a “ridiculous” way to govern to go to referendum on such a complex issue.

“Why wasn’t there a referendum on the Port Mann Bridge? Why isn’t there a referendum about building a new Delta bridge? Why isn’t there a referendum on the Pattullo? Where they want to spend money there’s no referendum. Where they don’t want to spend money there’s a referendum.”

Corrigan noted the premier’s promise to give the people the final say came after the province concluded voters were wrong and misguided when they defeated the HST in a referendum.

“I don’t know how a referendum will pass,” said Mayors Council chair Richard Walton,  added he’s hopeful more meetings can hammer out a deal with the province by Christmas that provides some chance of success.

Walton predicted most people will vote against paying more taxes for transit – while continuing to demand more be provided – unless a very compelling case is presented.

Stone told reporters he shares a common vision with the mayors on the need to raise billions of dollars for additional transit expansion.

There is no decision yet on what exactly voters will be asked in the referendum, who will pay for it and lead it, or when it will be, other than it will take place no later than November of 2014.

Asked if voters might be denied a “none of the above” option – that they might be forced to choose from a menu of new taxes for TransLink as suggested in May by former Transportation Minister Mary Polak – Stone said he hasn’t ruled it out.

“The question must be about a vision for the expansion of transit and transportation in the Lower Mainland,” Stone said.

“It is therefore likely that wrapped around that vision in the referendum question itself there may be a list of options that voters have to choose from in terms of different funding mechanisms, new funding mechanisms that could come into play to fund that expansion.”

He predicted the referendum can be successful if the question is worded correctly.

Stone also defended the government’s decision to announce plans to replace the Massey Tunnel with a large new bridge.

If there is a referendum, the more probable sources of potential funding include an annual vehicle levy or a small regional sales tax.

Road pricing or regional tolling, while backed my most mayors, would take years longer to flesh out.

TransLink board vice-chair Howard Nemtin also spoke out Thursday when mayors challenged the board to take a public stand on the future of TransLink.

He insisted TransLink is efficiently run but cannot keep pace with the needs of the growing region.

He said the board backs the mayors’ call for new revenue sources.

“We’ve looked at road pricing. We’ve looked at licence fees. We’ve looked at tolling. We have all been on the same page in that regard,” Nemtin said.

“What we do need is some decision at a higher level, at the provincial level, to allow us to move forward and implement those particular initiatives.”

Just Posted

White Rock beach was buzzing with activity on Father’s Day. (Aaron Hinks photo)
PHOTOS: White Rock beach buzzing with activity on Father’s Day

High of 27C drew hundreds of people to the beach

This year’s Virtual Hike for Hospice raised just over $30,000 with the support of participants including Marlene. (Contributed photo)
PHOTOS: Virtual hike raises $30K for Peace Arch Hospice Society

Community support smashes fundraising goal

SFN councillor Joanne Charles, White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker and Coun. David Chesney listen to welcoming remarks from Chief Harley Chappell (Xwopokton). (FIle photo)
White Rock, SFN grieve together on National Indigenous Peoples Day

Residents encouraged to wear orange on Canada Day

Surrey RCMP are investigating after shots were fired at a white Jeep Saturday evening in Newton. (Shane MacKichan photo)
UPDATE: Surrey RCMP asking for video after shots fired in Newton

Surrey RCMP said a silver SUV shot at a white Jeep

A Grade 8 class at L.A. Matheson Secondary. March 2021. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
B.C.’s return-to-school plan good, but Surrey teachers hope there is room for adjustments

Surrey school district to receive $1.76M of the $25.6M provincial pandemic-related funding

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Most Read