What are the odds that the provincial government, after considering more carefully the corner it is painting itself into, will decide that, um, no, it’s not actually necessary to hold a referendum in 2014?

The mayors are clearly not going to cooperate by taking on the heavy lifting: conducting, paying, campaigning or doing anything for a referendum that wasn’t their idea.

Anyway, the Mayor’s Council members may not be the ones representing TransLink.

The Minister of Transportation emphasized at a Chamber of Commerce event that there will be a change in the governance structure of TransLink.  Does it make any sense to negotiate with a body that won’t likely exist in its current form on the wording of a referendum question if it means that some other group will have to commit to the projects and tax measures that it will enable? 

Amendments to the TransLink governance structure must go before a Legislature which is now not sitting until spring. Therefore, the timing of the vote is likely to be in a very small window: sometime after the legislature sits and sometime before municipal elections. 

Even if the last possible date, November 15, is chosen, and the summer is used to get agreement on the particulars with a new TransLink governing body, that leaves a couple of months for the actual campaign. That’s too short, likely, for all the events needed to explain the options and implications, but long enough for the No campaigners to fill the vacuum left by the absence of leadership.

If public meetings are part of the campaign, they will attract anyone who has a grudge about transit in parrticular and government in general.  This could get very ugly, with a lot of unpleasantness for Metro MLAs who will be expected to take a stand.  (I’m thinking of you, Sam Sullivan.)  They might be looking around for an alternative too.

And who, by the way, is going to lead and pay for the Yes campaign, along with the costs of the vote itself – an accumulative amount in the many millions? Especially if the polls indicate that this sucker is going down. 

Since the prospect of no transit expansion in the future for the Lower Mainland is realistically unacceptable, a No vote would mean that the forces in favour would have to reunite, rebuild and start the process all over again, hoping for a more favourable outcome in a year or so.

So why hold the referendum in the next year?  Why stick to an unrealistic date?  Why not just say, well, we’re not ready to go to to the voters with a tax proposal.  We’ll get back to you later.

That means, of course, no progress on transit expansion for Metro.  But that’s where we’d likely end up on November 16 anyway, only with a vote that rules out any considertation of an alternative deal.  At least with a delay to some unspecified time in the future, this region might have time to put together a coalition, a plan and the prospect of a winning vote with a provincial government that might have a more sympathic perspective, or at least a better grasp of reality.

But at the rate we’re going, the paint will have dried and all the players will be cornered.