Our favourite Maple Ridge pontificator (in the best sense) weighs in on The Metro transit referendum and the mayors
The part I liked best, highlighted in bold, outs a possible unspoken strategy behind the Premier’s initiative:
TransLink was created by the Province in the late 1990s as a supposedly autonomous regional authority, responsible for transit and a few arterial roads. Since then, governments left and right have stepped in at key moments to impose change or veto TransLink funding proposals. Local mayors, a tragic chorus in a drama strangely lacking in principal characters, have decried a lack of sustainable funding.
In April 2013, during a provincial election campaign, Liberal Premier Christy Clark proposed a Metro Vancouver transit referendum to take place alongside local elections in November 2014. The referendum would determine whether residents are prepared to pay additional taxes to support transit and major road expansion.
Thrashing the Mayors
Fast-forward to January 2014, and we still don’t know what kind of new transit tax we’ll be voting on in the referendum. Gas tax? Sales tax? Parking tax?
The mayors, who have agitated for more authority over transit decisions, argue that the referendum idea ain’t right and it ain’t fair. Their position is understandable. Elements within the provincial government see the referendum campaign as a chance to mete out a thrashing to Metro Vancouver’s local governments.
The mayors, according to some in Victoria, have been wasting the public’s money. This, potentially, will be a key theme during the coming referendum period. While the Province restrains spending on salaries, Metro governments lavishly reward their unionized staff and managers. Local taxes are rising. If mayors and councils were more competent, and more disciplined, they could channel current revenues from property taxes into regional transit, without having to invent new taxes.
The local government side fears that a transit referendum tied to local elections will degenerate into an anti-tax lynching. Normally apathetic residents will swarm out of the basements, replacing veteran representatives with know-nothing upstarts. Urbanist and former Vancouver councillor Gordon Price wrote on January 16 that such a Tea Party revolution would mark “the end of the region as we know it.”
Complete post here.