Lots of insights here in Jeff Nagel’s coverage: TransLink referendum could sway civic election outcomes

The outcome of this fall’s civic elections across Metro Vancouver may be altered by holding the promised TransLink referendum at the same time, prompting an unusual surge of voters aligned with one side or the other.

… more likely, some watchers say, is a stampede to the polls of anti-tax voters who want to pay no more for TransLink and will help elect conservative councillors and mayors as a byproduct of defeating the referendum.

Worst case:

A Nov. 15 TransLink vote would boost the “notoriously low” turnout in civic elections, said political analyst David Schreck, but he added it might also sweep into power candidates similar to Toronto Coun. Doug Ford.

Perhaps that’s the strategy behind the referendum: to neutralize the Metro Region (I’m being polite) as a counter-force to the Province, and, as collateral damage, to neuter TransLink.

That was the Conservative strategy in Ontario when the City was amalgamated with the suburbs, giving the latter a chance to vent their displeasure with the so-called elites and the Ford-labelled ‘Gravy Train’ at City Hall.

It’s certainly gravy for Jordan Bateman and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to pursue their strategy.

“If I was a mayor in a community where TransLink is not popular but I’m proposing big tax increases to give TransLink more dough, I’d be very nervous about this election,” Bateman said.

So as a defensive strategy, even pro-transit mayors will have to come out against the referendum, denying any possibility of a united campaign to persuade marginal voters.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore, Metro’s board chair, nails it:

Moore predicts it will be difficult for residents to view the referendum as a vote on whether the region needs more money for transit and roads, rather than just a way to castigate TransLink for various shortcomings.

“That’s going to be a challenge for people to separate those two.”

As does Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin:

“It has the potential of pitting communities against communities,” said Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin. “It also has the potential to dilute or push aside other local issues during the election campaign.”

This referendum could well be so destructive that the region as we know it will dissolve in a tide of vitriol, division and distrust – unable to forge the kind of consensus that has characterized regional decision-making in the past, whether to agree on cost-sharing agreements for major infrastructure or on strategic plans to shape growth.

We take this consensus-making for granted, and indeed discount it, repeating the shibboleth that municipal leaders are parochial and unable to come together in common interest.  The dissonant noise of politics drowns out the soft chorus of agreement (as demonstrated at today’s Board of Trade meeting by the mayors of Surrey and Vancouver).

If in a backlash to the referendum, we elect a Tea Party-equivalent of anti-tax novices, the region will descend into dysfunction, unable to build on our past success – the region that mostly got it right – or offer much hope for the future.

Then we can get down to really hating each other.


  1. All this speculation on what may or may not happen is counterproductive. If the people are concerned, they should have Metro Vancouver do some quality polling. Trying to guess what the public may or may not do is not helpful and likely wrong. Public opinion can’t be judged by on line comments and calls to radio shows.

    Premier Clark raised gas tax for the Evergreen Line a year before the election. The Conservatives tried to organize an “Axe the Tax” campaign that gained absolutely no traction nor did it help them win any seats at all.

  2. Well, voting in fiscally conservative mayors/councilors would be a novelty for BC and a good thing as much money is wasted on the municipal level.

    While I do detest Rob Ford’s personal style and smoking habits, he is a very effective cost cutter, and that is indeed what MetroVancouver needs.

    The power of unions and city staff with bloated salaries is indeed worth shaking up !!

    Perhaps once we have an amalgamated city, or likely two (on north of Fraser and one south) then we also get transit done to UBC and Surrey, as both are needed.

    1. Amalgamated cities. never. From a density and smart growth perspective the smaller the municipality the better because they simply don’t have the room to develop land ineffectively. Look at infill and town centre development in White Rock, Langley City, North Van City, New West, Port Moody and too a lesser extent Poco. NO to amalgamation!

  3. Why is Ford seen as an effective cost cutter or fiscal conservative when, at best, it’s not supported by the record: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/rob-fords-numbers-simply-dont-add-up/article15558420/

    Because, once again, wishful thinking and repetition trumps reality. Just as the belief that cutting salaries at TransLink could fund our transit needs: http://pricetags.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/lets-slash-translink-adminstration-by-half/

    1. It’s not wishful thinking, it’s belief.
      Contradictory facts can disrupt wishful thinking, but they only serve to entrench beliefs.

  4. Why is he so popular then .. and even more popular now ?

    Because he sticks it to the leftists, unions, over-spenders at the various city halls .. and closes the gap between spending and revenue .. and lower unemployment in a sea of red ink in Ontario .. that is what MetroVancouver needs, too .. and that is what got Christy Clarke elected !





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