The yes side of the upcoming Metro Vancouver transit plebiscite has pulled out a powerful weapon to assure the public that money collected from a proposed 0.5% regional transit tax will be spent wisely and as intended.
Jim Pattison Group owner Jim Pattison has not only agreed to chair a committee that will provide oversight to ensure that collected funds are spent as intended, he will also vote yes in the plebiscite, the entrepreneur and self-made billionaire told Business in Vancouver March 5.
“Absolutely, I will vote on the yes side,” Pattison said of the plebiscite that will be held by mail-in ballot March 16 through May 29.
“If the yes vote succeeds then part of my job would be overseeing the funds with some other people.”
Pattison said that, as far as he is aware, he will not be paid for his involvement.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson asked Pattison if he would take on a role on the accountability committee and Pattison accepted the responsibility, Pattison said, because Pattison lives in Metro Vancouver and understands the value of transit.
His busy life means that he does not use public transit himself much but he said that “on occasion” he has used public transit.
The Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation put out a press release earlier in the day in which Robertson confirmed that he has heard opposition concerns that revenue from the tax could be spent with little oversight.
“We have heard loud and clear from the people of Metro Vancouver on this question. They want assurances that the money collected from the PST increase will go to pay for the critical transportation and transit improvements needed in the region,” he said.
“By appointing Mr. Pattison to head up this oversight committee, we are providing voters with a concrete mechanism to monitor and ensure that the funds raised will be used for the infrastructure they are meant to pay for.”
Jimmy Pattison not only owns but is chairman and CEO of the Jim Pattison Group – B.C.'s largest private company and a venture that he founded as a Vancouver car dealership more than 50 years ago. The sprawling conglomerate has staff located in 545 different locations, Pattison said.
The 86-year-old confirmed to BIV that he is in good health and has no plans to step down. His company has an independent board that will decide who will head the company when the day comes when Pattison is no longer able.
Forbes, last week, estimated Pattison’s wealth at US$7.4 billion and ranked him No. 177 on its list of wealthiest people in the world.
"I'd feel a whole lot better if Jimmy Pattison was coming on as TransLink CEO and had the power to fire and reduce waste and roll up his sleeves," Jordan Bateman, who is the B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, told BIV.
"This is a toothless committee. Can this committee really override the mayors' council or a CEO's decision? Well, of course not. It has no legal standing."