Bill Holmes added an important comment to the announcement post on the Price Tags Initiative to the End the Referendum Requirement.

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. …


Helpful clarification, Bill – but it’s also important to note that the Liberals, in responding to the Mayors’ Council survey of all parties prior to the election, indicated this when asked about supporting completion of the 10-year vision:

Legislative requirement that any new source will require holding a referendum.

So unless we hear otherwise from the Liberal MLAs, Price Tags is assuming they would impose the referendum using whatever legislation they have.  We’d like an unequivocal statement that the requirement would be removed, whether legally required by legislation or decided by cabinet.  The most sincere expression from all parties would be a vote to remove the enabling legislation.


Alex Botta thinks this comment from Geoff (also on his blog here) should be brought forward:
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.)
This is a good statement with respect to values and mobility – and hence the problem with a referendum.  All that gets disregarded or ignored when the referendum gets highjacked by those who can more effectively sow division for partisan purposes or for their own ideological agenda.  In an age of social media, it’s almost impossible for rational and considered debate to occur.  As we saw with the last one, it instead becomes a shitshow.
And don’t let the same thing happen to our comments section. This PT initiative is about the politics of the referendum, not about the specifics of the Mayors’ plan or its alternatives, funding options, TransLink as an organization or public-service salaries. The delete button will be used more aggressively if highjacking becomes a problem.




  1. During the 2013 election campaign CBC reported:
    “Clark stresses that if the Liberals are re-elected for a fourth term, her government would hold the line on taxes and pay down provincial debt.”
    The Mayors’ Council decided on a new tax to fund their transit projects so the Premier kept her campaign promise and the new tax, as expected, went to referendum.
    The Mayors’ mistakenly expected to win the referendum. Even the Premier herself said she supported it, if that was what the people wanted.
    Now, we may well have an NDP government that campaigned on “Eliminating Bridge Tolls” and “Commuters who live on routes without reliable, accessible transit options should not be punished for driving to work.”
    I can’t see John Horgan and an NDP administration now kicking those in the Lower Mainland that voted for him.
    It would be extraordinary if the NDP called a referendum for financing a Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council plan. Based on their campaigning it would also be extraordinary if the NDP increased the cost of getting around Metro with some new tax.
    As Dan Ross suggested, GPS or whatever method for road pricing is probably a decade away, if it comes really quickly. There will likely be at least a couple of elections between now and then. No politician would promise such financial pain to those that just elected them, when the implementation, method and cost of such a plan is so unknown.
    It’s so much easier to go back to Justin and ask for more money.

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