Campaign for the Transit Referendum begins in March

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Voters will mail in ballots until May 29 to vote on new tax

By Mercedes Deutscher, Staff Writer

In December 2014, the BC Government approved a referendum for the Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax, where voting is scheduled to take place from March 16 to May 29.

The referendum will ask the question of whether or not Metro Vancouver residents would approve a 0.5 per cent increase to the Provincial Sales Tax in order to improve both transit and transportation in the region by 2040.

If approved, money from the tax will fund the Mayors’ Council Transportation and Transit Plan, which will go towards expanding the Millennium line from VCC-Clark to Arbutus, creating a light rail train that connects Surrey and Langley, and replacing the Pattullo Bridge. Plans also include introducing 11 new B-Line Bus routes, such as routes connecting Maple Ridge to Coquitlam and Vancouver to Simon Fraser University.

In mid-January, both “Yes” and “No” campaigns began in an effort to inform voters on both sides. The Mayors’ Council, led by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, is urging residents to vote “Yes.”

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore explained two of the major goals for the new transit plan: “The first one is to have 50 per cent load share by automobile and 50 percent by bus, walking, or cycling,” explained Moore. “The second overarching goal is to decrease how far everybody needs to drive by one-third.”

Moore also explained how the new plan incorporates benefits to students, which includes “increasing the amount of service” throughout BC.

“Students, especially with the U-Pass, are high users of the transit system. One of the biggest effects will be we will have 70 per cent of the residents in the region within walking distance to a frequent transit network [which] is a bus route that comes every 15 minutes.

“On top of that, many students might work night jobs or have school late at night. There will be an 80 per cent increase in night bus service.”

The “Yes” campaign is also supported by the Vancouver Board of Trade, which Moore stated has the potential to affect the number of goods leaving the country through the Port Metro export port.

Other “Yes” campaign supporters are Unifor, Tourism Vancouver, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the BC Chamber of Commerce.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) is opposing the tax increase and the new transportation plan.

The “No” campaign focusses on a document written by the CTF called No TransLink Tax: A Better Plan. The document points out several TransLink controversies in the past, which includes previous jumps in tax and fares and “tens of millions” spent on the still non-operational Compass Card system. An extensive list of various TransLink executives who have received raises over the past few years is provided as well.

No TransLink Tax also gives four detailed recommendations for readers on how the community can socially call for an improved transit system without the need to increase tax.