No help from province in getting to “yes” on transit referendum

Metro Vancouver cities need to shoulder task of campaigning for transit referendum on their own, says premier

Premier Christy Clark signaled that the province has no interest in getting involved in an upcoming Metro Vancouver transit referendum, despite repeated entreaties from regional mayors for provincial support.

Clark made the comments during an address to the Vancouver Board of Trade (VBOT) on October 2.

“Will the province work with stakeholders, including the business community, on ensuring a successful yes vote in next year’s transportation’s referendum, and what is the role the province is preparing to take to ensure the necessary investment?” asked VBOT moderator Janet Austin.

“We’re going to let mayors lead this,” Clark responded.

“I hope the discussion in lots of municipal campaigns across the lower mainland. We’re going to let them lead it, we’re going to let them fight for it, and in the early spring I suppose people will get to have their say on it.”

The comments come in the wake of four SkyTrain stoppages over the past three months that have stranded thousands of commuters.

Clark first announced the referendum on any new taxes or fees to pay for transit expansion in Metro Vancouver during the 2013 provincial election campaign.

The province tasked Metro Vancouver mayors with coming up with a comprehensive transportation plan by June 2014; the mayors produced a plan that called for $7.5 billion worth of investment and included a light rail system in Surrey, extending the SkyTrain line along part of Vancouver's Broadway corridor and replacing the Patullo Bridge.

The plan identified a range of possible sources of funds, including a regional carbon tax, road pricing, tolls and contributions from Victoria and Ottawa.

Richard Walton, chair of TransLink’s Mayors Council and mayor of the District of North Vancouver, has repeatedly emphasized the importance of having the province on board campaigning with the mayors to get to “yes.”

Walton has also indicated that municipalities are unwilling to shoulder the entire cost of a referendum campaign.

“We’ve put together a plan that presents this vision and we need to figure out how to get to this yes,” Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore, one of the architects of the transportation plan, told Business in Vancouver in July.

“One of the leaders of that yes has to be the Minister of Transportation.”

The mayors have also repeatedly pointed out that the province did not require a referendum before deciding to build the $3 billion Port Mann bridge or announcing their intention to build a similar bridge to replace the Massey tunnel.

The referendum must be held no later than June 2015.