The Mayors’ Council has released a “90-Day Action Plan for Metro Vancouver Transportation.” Among its five priorities requiring government decisions by the fall is this:

  • Eliminating the referendum requirement on Metro Vancouver transportation projects.

Price Tags wants to help!  The lesson of the last election should be clear: Don’t take Metro Vancouver for granted or disregard its needs.  Get behind solutions, don’t get in the way.  And the referendum requirement gets in the way.
Every MLA in the region, regardless of party, should now get behind getting rid of it.  So we’re going to ask every MLA in the region, regardless of party, exactly that.
This letter will be sent to them all, as well as the Green Party members on the Island:

Price Tags is a blog devoted to urban issues generally and Metro Vancouver in particular.
In the lead-up to the transportation referendum in 2015, we polled every Metro MLA.  The results are here.
We are now undertaking a poll to determine the position of each Metro MLA on the referendum requirement itself.
The Mayors’ Council has released a “90-Day Action Plan for Metro Vancouver Transportation” to all parties and all newly elected MLAs in the region.  Among its five priorities requiring government decisions by the fall is this:

  • Eliminating the referendum requirement on Metro Vancouver transportation projects.

We believe the referendum requirement is wasteful and an excuse for inaction.  It could prevent moving ahead on rapid transit, funding the Pattullo Bridge, and pursuing options for mobility pricing.
What is your position on removing the referendum requirement.

  • I support removing the referendum requirement and will vote to do so.
  • I support maintaining the referendum requirement.
  • I support an alternative, which I outline below.

The results will be published as we receive them.  We will follow up to ensure we have everyone’s reply.


  1. Now that the idea of a one-half percent sales tax for transit is off the table, the requirement for a referendum no longer exists.
    If the mayors and Translink can do what the winners of the referendum suggested, which is finding the revenue for their plan from existing budgets, then there is no need for the discussion at all.
    Any idea about mobility pricing is decades away waiting for invasive technology, that will be opposed by many, across the political spectrum. Measuring odometers will not be acceptable with so many people driving back east and down to the states or to the Island for leisure. It is also extremely regressive. John Horgan of the NDP has promised to remove the present regressive bridge tolls. He would not risk the wrath of the new found support in and around the Port Mann Bridge, were he to turn around and slap on tolls for all the roads.

    1. A referendum should be held for a PST increase to pay for the cost of removing tolls. It would have a snow balls chance in hell of passing. So the tolls would have to stay

      1. Unfortunately the new gov’t is not legally required to prove it can off-set the loss of tolls with some other form of revenue. It was eminently stupid to offer up toll removal without a feasible replacement plan. The “fairness” of bridge tolling is irrelevant. For now it’s the simplest – and only – way of paying back infrastructure we won’t otherwise tax ourselves for. Any other scheme is 6-10 years off; assuming it moves with lightning speed. And none of them are any better than simply raising the current gas tax or region-wide bridge tolling.
        The NDP/Greens painted themselves into a corner on this issue. Unless Mr. Tanner’s tea-bagging blather above is correct and our corrupt province really is drowning in free, wasted money; it’s either tax increases, service cuts, or both. At least there are still 3 years and 11 months to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

        1. Sure Thomas. Let’s start with paramedics and police first shall we? Then move on to overpaid, lazy fire dept staff. Then by-law enforcement officers shutting down dangerous building site and illegal zoning infractions, sewer and waterworks staff who fix broken pipes in all conditions, and the clerks and nurses facing the public everyday. Let’s not forget bus drivers, starting with the ones who got assaulted by whackos and dared to lodge a complaint about it.
          Let’s create a Beyer’s World like above, then let citizens judge the effectiveness of privatized public services.

        2. You bet. Not every job is overpaid, but many are. Every job ought to be looked at. The waste and grotesque overpayment is theft by the billions across Canada due to a monopoly employer situation exploited by public sector unions. Unions in government ought to be illegal. That is why we have such high deficits and debt. It is the #1 reason.
          And that money is not available for homelessness, drug addiction counselling, new schools or transit, which is the topic of this threat.
          BC’s Liquorstore employees making double the average Safeway clerk, BC Ferries cafeteria workers making twice the average restaurant pay, city hall secretaries making 50% more than a comparably skilled worker, school cleaners making 50% above market .. the list is endless. Don’t even get me started on grossly overstuffed fire halls. A 50% staff reduction across MetroVan coupled with 20-30% salary and benefit reduction would yield enormous savings as most work is not dangerous, but is for false alarms, car accident security and simple mechanical work. A complete reorganization here is in order. Movies like Ladder 49 help with publicity to secure wages and staffing levels well above requirements.
          Most cities are well above inflation plus population growth. Well. By a wide margin. http://www.iheartradio.ca/cfax-1070/news/cfib-report-finds-97-of-bc-municipalities-spending-unsustainably-1.2216520
          That is where we ought to start the analysis or more transit $s and not with even more taxation !

  2. Regardless of whether there will be another referendum, I think it would be wise to communicate with the public as if there will be. Strong public support would make many of the political problems we have seen simply go away. I think the #CureCongestion slogan is counterproductive. I have been developing some thoughts about an alternative approach:
    Values are the foundation of a powerful message. It is critical that people believe that your values are sincere, so that they will be open to the rest of what you have to say:
    1. Everyone has a right to mobility, to economic opportunity, and to a clean environment.
    2. TransLink and the Mayors’ Council are dedicated to achieving these things. They live, work and take transit here, just like us. (Lead by example: get those mayors and TransLink officials on trains and buses.)
    3. Our task is to give people choices that maximize their ability to get where they need to go safely, affordably, and cleanly.
    Establish mobility as a core value:
    4. Mobility is the foundation of a modern economy. Our economy is our people. Mobility enables us to be productive.
    5. Everyone has a right to mobility: workers, children, the elderly, the disabled. (Poverty has negative connotations. Don’t bring it up, but respond if raised: “I’m glad you brought that up, because low income groups benefit the most from better transit.”)
    6. We benefit from the mobility of others: family, friends, workers, people who provide us with goods and services. Mobility brings people together. (Always talk about mobility, never about congestion.)
    The importance of transit follows naturally:
    7. Transit gives us choices, enhancing our mobility. Transit and roads work together to get us where we need to go. (Do not engage in us-and-them anti-car rhetoric. “People,” not “drivers.” “Use road space more efficiently,” not “take away car lanes.” “Give people choices,” not “get people out of cars.” “Free up road space,” not “take cars off the road.”)
    8. Transit is an investment. A dollar invested in transit produces more than three dollars in economic activity.
    9. Transit is an essential part of an active, healthy and green city.
    This leads to a positive plan of action that includes citizens as active participants:
    10. Our transit system is extremely successful relative to comparable systems elsewhere. We need to build on that investment so that we do not fall behind.
    11. Citizens support transit expansion. They understand the importance of in mobility, choice, independence and wise public investment. (People give their support when they feel that they are part of a group or movement.)
    12. Our democratic representatives have collaborated on a plan to invest in transit. Participation from the people who live here is essential to that plan, and to continuing expansion in the future. (Focus on a legitimate and inclusive ongoing process, not the technical details, trade-offs and winners and losers of a particular project.)

    1. Geof; You will have to rewrite #2. A prominent city councilor in one of the outer municipalities told me just last week that he became completely fed up with Translink managers when discussing bus service because they always showed up in their cars.
      Missing from your pleas is the fact that Translink fares are lower than many other places and bus fares are an idea and not a requirement. The other thing is that it is way too soon to go back to the people because the idea has deeply sunk in that Translink does not spend money wisely and their managers and executives overlap within the multiple companies in the Metro Vancouver transit empire and many of them are paid way too much. Is Ian Jarvis still coining it?

    2. I’m certainly not proposing holding another referendum, but I think it would be good to proceed *as if* one were coming. Public support will pay off. You are absolutely right that there is a general negative perception of Translink: but that only makes it more necessary to develop a positive vision for transit.
      In general, I don’t think Translink should be what this is about. Putting them front and centre in the referendum (the effect of firing the CEO) was disastrous. But when I see things like #CureCongestion, or “Drive to your future” ads for bus drivers, I just shake my head. There is a place for better communication regardless of Translink’s failings.
      I did not know that about Translink managers, though I’m unfortunately not surprised. That is a really serious problem, and it’s not going to go away. It’s not necessary for them to take transit all the time, but they do need to take it sometimes, and not just for propaganda purposes. This is a fundamental question of leadership.
      I’m not sure what you mean about fares.

    3. Dear editors,
      I nominate this comment to be brought forward as its own post.
      Thank you.

    4. It isn’t only about messaging. TransLink would benefit from being more open and flexible. In my experience some of their employees are more bureaucratic and seem to care less about the public than the provincial Ministry of Transportation.

  3. I support an alternative taxation solution besides the 0.5% PST increase proposed in the last referendum.
    To reduce car use and to promote public transit we need a carrot AND a stick: car use in both its forms (driving and parked) has to be more expensive, while public transit has to be FASTER and available more widely. Merely adding more (wobbly) buses won’t cut it, and neither does a PST increase as it is not related to cars nor transit.
    As such I propose
    – Increase parking fees as parking is far too cheap across most cities in MetroVan. Land has value, and parking for free, or heavily subsidized on land you do not own has to end. Using the west-end, for example, where land is worth $20M an acre or $500/sq ft I arrive at a land value for your average car at 6 ft x 20 ft or $60,000. Using a 4% rate of return I arrive at $2400/yr or $200/month for a parking spot. The west end fee is far below that, for example.
    – Introduce road tolls on key choke points, or clone the Oregon model of a per km charge. Such choke points could be: airport, bridges, key road intersections, key arterial roads (say Lougheed Hwy, Hwy 1, Granville, Broadway etc)
    – Increase transit fees as Vancouver has one of the lowest in the world, possibly making it one zone across the region.
    – Revise the 2040 plane to include a subway/LRT to/from North-Shore incl E-Van as E-Van needs revitalization a subway stop can bring, en-route to Burnaby and Second Narrows, then to Lonsdale and Dundarave in W-Van with a crossing over / under Lionsgate bridge.
    – Expand Broadway line to UBC right away as UEL’s Block F, UBC’s expansion and soon Jericho land (the biggest development in Vancouver for the next few decades) will put enormous strain onto traffic or transit. No development at Jericho should commence until a subway plan is in place.
    – Expand CanadaLine in Richmond to Steveston with densification along the route
    – Expand UBC line to make it a loop back to CanadaLine and Burnaby SkyTrain via 41st with densification along that route
    – Levy an appropriate transit fee, in addition to CACs, onto new developments within 800 m of an existing or planned LRT/subway station, incl UBC, UEL and Jericho lands
    – Increase property taxes for all, and difference rebate to Canadian income tax filers or Canadian seniors to monetize foreign investment
    – Increase PST only if income taxes are reduced in lieu (again, monetize foreign investors, tourists and heavy consumers)
    – curtail public sector spending to 20% below comparable private sector wages due to lower risk of layoffs and superior benefits & pension [ of course that is highly unlikely with the current left leaning coalition of MetroVan councils and an even lefter Green+NDP alliance relying heavily on public sector votes but I throw it out there as we do not need more taxes just more efficient spending to pay for most required services such as transit, roads, healthcare or curbing homelessness ]

    1. Man, you really dislike public sector employees. It’s a strangely common sentiment. For some reason if you work for the public you’re supposed to live in penury and be grateful for it. Most of them really don’t make very much; and wages in BC are low enough as it is. My god, teachers make bupkis for all the crap they put up with. Cops, too. A lot of private sector employees doing similar work make more; albeit with lesser benefits.

      1. Excellent Dan. Glad you furthered this issue.
        Let’s expand on this discussion. Let’s bring forward some numbers.

        1. Love to see numbers. Cops make $100,000+ plus benefits plus pensions. Teachers start at $60,000 ( far too high ) plus benefits and pensions for 9 months of work a year, while top teachers deserve $150,000 but top out at a hundred. Grade teachers A-F, like students, and pay according to grade, as some teachers are awesome and some ought to be fired.
          In the current economy any person that has a secure job ought be be paid less than a comparable risky private sector job. As such a city hall planner or engineer ought to make $75,000 plus benefits if his higher risk university colleague working as an architect or civil engineer makes $100-125,000 in a good year or zero in a lean year. Yet most make well above $100-120,000 after a few years of training. One reason for the construction backlog and long approval cycles, btw at city hall. Understaffed as those employed make far too much.

      2. I spoke to a full-time Burnaby elementary school teacher a couple of years ago who was waitressing and tutoring on the side and living in a 1-bedroom apartment with her mother just to get by (and it’s not as if she just started teaching: she wasn’t all that young). With rents the way they are I think there are a lot of people struggling. Even if some are somewhat better paid than others (I have no idea how teachers are paid), reducing wages is not going to help with that fundamental problem.
        She was a great teacher, by the way. We have been very fortunate.

        1. You can get condos in Burnaby for $300-400,000, easily affordable on a teacher’s salary. Teachers are very well paid in BC, considering three months off a year and very generous benefits. That’s why there is such a line-up to get such a job. We can’t only look at more taxes or more debt to fund ( transit ) projects, we also have to look at services delivery costs and efficiencies, especially in the two biggest buckets sucking up over 2/3s of provincial $s: healthcare and education.

    2. – Increase parking fees: YES. Ending subsidized parking would be both a carrot and stick. Best idea by far.
      – Introduce road tolls on key choke points: This would provide a great advantage for transit.
      – Increase transit fees: I don’t see how this is supposed to get people to shift to transit, though I suppose some fare rise would be needed and would be accepted for greatly improved service.
      – Levy an appropriate transit fee onto new developments within 800 m of an existing or planned LRT/subway station: this would be counter productive, don’t we want to see the shiny new transit infrastructure to be well utilized? Disincentivizing construction in transit supportive areas while letting sprawl be untaxed is going to have negative unintended consequences.
      – Increase property taxes for all, and difference rebate to Canadian income tax filers: why not try a land value tax instead of a property tax?
      – Increase PST only if income taxes are reduced: consumption taxes are regressive, income taxes progressive. I’m sure there’s a more effective way to tax foreign homeowners than this, which seems to be your goal.
      – curtail public sector spending to 20% below comparable private sector wages: this seems more like a petty strike against public sector employees than a serious policy proposal. You would just end up needing twice as many disgruntled employees to do the same job at 80% of the pay.

  4. Actually, there is no referendum requirement. The referenda provisions of the relevant legislation – the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Referenda Act – have not been brought into force. Even if they had been, the holding of a referendum would not be mandatory. The legislation leaves it up to cabinet to decide in each case whether to order a referendum. Hence, the questions to MLAs should be worded differently, i.e., not based on there being a legislated requirement for a referendum.
    It’s a mystery why the government enacted legislation that was not brought into force or used for the vote on the 0.5% sales tax. The plebiscite was held pursuant to section 282 of the Election Act, which permits cabinet to direct the chief electoral officer to conduct a plebiscite.
    There is a peculiar section (section 34.1) in the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act (the Act governing TransLink) requiring the Mayors’ Council to “demonstrate to the minister’s satisfaction that a majority of the electors in the transportation service region supports” a proposal for an additional funding source. The term “electors” has not been defined. In other legislation, it means all those who are eligible to vote. This section can be repealed by cabinet (another oddity). The application of this section was never satisfactorily explained during the debates in the Legislature. Minister Fassbender did not seem to understand it.

  5. In my view referenda should be used for the really important single issues that broadly applies to society, like electoral reform. The process must also follow well-defined and detailed rules of engagement with adequate funding over a generous timeframe for all issues to be debated and elucidated. The referendum question must be simple and offer alternative choices when necessary. Without the rules, the sky will be open for the forces of division to descend.
    Pinpointing only transit in one city for a referendum did not meet the criteria above, was ridiculously petty and indicated a very serious lack of judgement and leadership. It seemed vindictive. The issue of future transit referenda has been effectively dealt with through a bigger, all-encompassing referendum: A general election.
    The game has changed, and that can only be a good thing.

    1. Tax increases will-nilly, without them even being in an election platform are OK to you ? Or more specifically, what increases in taxes would warrant a referendum in your opinion, and which ones do not ? 0.5% PST increase ? 2.5? 10%? A new tax on house sales ? Higher income taxes? Tax on booze or excessive beach use ? Taxon bike tires ?
      Btw, the game has not changed as it is currently stalled due to the speaker and a sub-sequent tie issue. There may be a re-match.

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