That’s the take of Novae Res Urbis in its current issue:

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Transportation referendum top issue

This year brings municipal elections across B.C., and in the Metro Vancouver, voters will also be asked to weigh in on regional transportation projects.

The provincial government’s planned referendum on transit financing is, to many, the most important issue residents inthe region will face this year, particularly in Vancouver and Surrey.

Vancouver and the University of B.C. want a $2.8 billion underground rapid transit line between the Commercial-Broadway transit hub and UBC’s Point Grey campus, to ease the long waits for students and other passengers and to connect with the city’s medical precinct along central Broadway.

Surrey, which wants a $1.8 billion light-rail system to serve the growing area south of the Fraser River, applied to the federal government to help pay for it.

However, the government, which posed the referendum as an election promise, has yet to say what the wording will be or agree on what kind of question voters will be asked.

Gordon Price, director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program and a former city councillor and TransLink director, has been speaking and blogging about the referendum since last May’s provincial election, and said the result is not looking good.

Price is worried about securing a vote in favour of the projects, and says there’s an immediate need for a strong campaign and leadership to champion a vote in favour of them.

For the referendum to succeed and achieve a mix of rail and bus-transit and highway projects that provide benefits for all parts of the region, a number of things are needed, he told NRU.

These include:

  • a proposed tax that is both realistic to achieve what is promised and acceptable to the electorate,
  • polls that shape the exact language of the ballot question, and perfect the public message used to round up support.
  • a protransit campaign needs a charismatic leader who can get the ball rolling and help overcome adversity;
  • coalitions of unusual bedfellows and the involvement of their leaders early on;
  • use of spokespeople, other than politicians, as transit champions;
  • elected officials at all levels who offer not only their support but also their leadership;
  • sufficient resources to mount a campaign
  • and a professionalized, seasoned campaign team with experience in the region.

“We have none of that. And less than 300 days left,” Price said. “We don’t even have the wording of the referendum — much less a leader — and hence so far no engaged discussion or debate nor even much awareness of this vote’s significance.

“Yet this is a historic turning point for Metro Vancouver — the economic heart and job generator of the province.

“The premier has specifically opted out, not even indicating whether she cares if the result is a no — or what that means for the future of the region.”

The mayors’ council on regional transportation has expressed opposition to the referendum.

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