Governance & Politics
February 17, 2018

Pattullo: A question for Andrew Wilkinson

From the CBC:

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson questioned why the provincial government couldn’t get federal funding for the Pattullo Bridge replacement as well.
“Normally major infrastructure projects have a large component of federal financing. So we have to be concerned that B.C. rushed into this alone, and missed out on almost a half billion dollars of federal infrastructure funding,” he said.

 
Do tell us how much the federal government had committed to the Massey crossing when it was pulled out of the air by Premier Clark in 2013.  Or whether in subsequent years the Feds ever committed a loonie to its construction.
And while you’re at it, please explain:

  • What regional plan included the construction of Massey?
  • How many Metro mayors in the region supported it?
  • What provincial transportation plan prioritized it?
  • Why the previous transportation minister, Kevin Falcon, had rejected it as a pointless project?
  • Why the Liberals imposed a referendum requirement only for transit and not for Massey or any other major highway project?

Do tell.
 

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The Sun editorial board continues its thoughtless, lazy attack on mobility pricing in one of those fatuous editorials that has no other purpose than riling up public opinion (tax grab!) – including a gratuitous reference to bike lanes causing congestion.  Its suggestion: have another referendum – and good luck with that.
The American states, meanwhile, pursue research and demonstration projects, knowing that with the accelerating decline of the gas tax, alternatives are imperative and inevitable..
Here’s a summary of recent progress.
From Governing.

Congress included $95 million in grants in its last five-year highway funding law for states to study mileage-based fees and other alternatives to the gas tax. States must match the federal grants 50-50. In the first two years of the program, the Federal Highway Administration has doled out money to eight states …

The states’ work varies greatly. Minnesota is exploring the idea of imposing taxes on transportation companies like Uber and Lyft, rather than individual drivers, with the idea that individuals may be less likely to own their own vehicles as ride-hailing, car-sharing and autonomous vehicles become more common. Colorado, where gas tax rates have remained the same for 22 years, recently wrapped up a four-month test with 150 drivers that explored different ways of tracking mileage for motorists. Missouri explored adjusting its vehicle registration fees to reflect their fuel efficiency, and it is now getting public feedback on equity and data security issues.
Some of the most intriguing work comes from California. The state conducted its own test-run of 5,000 vehicles a year ago, the largest experiment of its kind in the country. Its test run lasted for nine months through March 2017, and it included trucking companies along with motorists from every county in the state.
California gave participants seven ways to track their mileage, including odometer checks, permits for a set number of days, permits for a certain allotment of miles, plug-in devices, smartphones and in-vehicle telematics like OnStar or Acura Link. The various methods were meant to give users options that protected their privacy – one of the biggest stumbling blocks in selling the mileage-charge systems to the public. But 62 percent of the participants in California’s study chose options that tracked their location anyway.
The state’s report on the pilot found that the options with the best privacy protections – like odometer checks – would also be the hardest to enforce. The most reliable methods for tracking mileage were plug-in devices (that fit into a ports in vehicles that are often used by mechanics to diagnose mechanical problems). But those devices are also likely to be obsolete by the time any widespread mileage fee could be imposed. …
One idea is to have connected vehicles pay the fees through a “wireless handshake,” when the vehicle pulls up to get gas, an idea that Honda and Visa have explored for traditional gas purchases. But the agency wants to do it without having to retrofit every vehicle or every fuel station in the state. …

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 More here.

 

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Price Tags: The Georgia Straight helpfully provided the full text of Attorney-General David Eby’s speech: “Housing and trans-national money laundering: an update on what I’ve been doing as AG to address the housing crisis in BC”.

Here are some highlights:  . . It is clear, in my opinion, that the previous administration was aware we had a serious and growing reputational issue. It is also clear to me that they evaluated the costs of cracking down on white collar crime, on fraud, on money laundering, and determined that the benefits of inaction outweighed the costs of action. …It is hard for me not to speculate that some may gone further and seen a lax approach to money laundering, fraud, corporate transparency, land title registry transparency, as a competitive advantage, or a budgetary advantage, for the province.
But, of course, nobody wrote this down. I’m just speculating.
If anyone did see a lax approach to white collar crime, tax evasion and money laundering as a net benefit to B.C., they were dead wrong. The chickens have now come home to roost, and our international reputation is on the line.
I do not make this assessment lightly. …
I was sat down by members of B.C.’s Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch. One of the members of the public service said, “Get ready. I think we are going to blow your mind.”
He was right. …
In response to this startling report from the police about the need to increase enforcement, the Province of B.C., under the oversight of then minister Responsible Rich Coleman, defunded the policing team, shutting it down. …
This was not the first report received by the then finance minister on the problem, there were countless red flags from regulators, just the most explicit. It is important to note that this same period was a period of exceptional growth in the province’s gaming revenues.
Although the activity behind the scenes in government was remarkable, in the legislature, you would never have guessed there was a problem.
A month after receiving that report about the significant increase in the legitimization of proceeds of crime through B.C.’s gaming facilities, the former finance minister (Mike de Jong) told the legislature, on April 4, 2016, quote “I can tell you this. We take very seriously the obligation that we have to British Columbians to ensure that the activities that take place within regulated and lawful gaming establishments are being conducted with proceeds that are not—I repeat not—the result of criminal activity.”  … The previous administration’s lax attitude towards this issue means British Columbia has apparently developed its own, internationally recognized, model of money laundering.

This has a major and serious consequence for our international reputation, and also for the encouragement of whatever illegal activity might be generating these proceeds of crime. …
Why criminal organizations might consider locating in B.C.
…. with fewer than two percent of penalties and fines collected, and limited criminal charges going ahead, the message is obvious to those who might wish to participate in white collar crime.
You’ll have a better chance to get away with it in B.C.
… A final and more notorious benefit to an individual or corporation seeking to avoid the law and accountability in British Columbia is the fact that you can put your money into housing here without having to give up your name or identity.
There is a growing outrage among people in the lower mainland that their housing market has transitioned from one that is rationally connected to local incomes, to one that has no connection to local wages. …
The question that flows from this economic reality is quite simple.  Where is the money coming from? …
Others have pointed out that for luxury and commercial properties, transfer taxes are avoided through a non-transparent transfer of trust benefit rather than a sale of the property itself. Such a transfer results in no change in ownership being registered in the public registry. …
But the previous administration was well aware of these issues. … And the consequences of not acting are very apparent now.

  • Our own internationally recognized model of money laundering.
  • Articles in the New York Times outlining a cozy and opaque tax break program exploited by an alleged transnational criminal organization,
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Get a little bit of rain and everyone gets back to business in Vancouver where the The CBC reports on the optimism arising from Greg Moore, the chair of Metro Vancouver and the other cities that comprise this region.  Everyone knows that housing affordability and transportation are the two most important factors in every conversation about this region. The relationship with the new NDP government and the Metro Cities has been encouraging so far, in a refreshing type of way.
After dealing with the  transportation referendum debacle  for Metro Vancouver (which was part of the former premier’s election promises in 2013) the Mayors want to advance the Ten Year Mayors’ Vision they had all agreed upon (except for the Mayor of Delta) .  That plan includes increasing rapid transit in the region and replacing the aging Patullo bridge. And that time is now.
With the new Provincial government actually talking to the Mayors and with the multi-billion dollar Massey Bridge (which was unsupported in the region except by the Mayor of  Delta) on hold, there are now active talks on working together between the region and the Province  to fund the agreed upon transportation initiatives. Instead of the Mayors finding out about the Province’s transportation priorities in the newspaper, Transportation Minister Claire Trevena is following up on her  pledge to work directly with the regional municipalities on advancing their agreed upon plan. It was Mayor Mussatto of the City of North Vancouver that said it best-“The (previous) provincial government didn’t really value our input. We didn’t feel like we were playing as equals at the table.”
That appears to have changed, with more open lines of communication and a renewed interest in moving forward with the important task of making this region accessible to everyone.  As the Metro Vancouver chair Greg Moore observed about working with the new Provincial government  “We have disagreements on different things, but we work through them together. If you’re sitting at the table and working together, although you might have even major disagreements on one topic, you can still work together on other topics.”
It’s a simple and direct approach for these two levels of government to advance transportation and accessibility across the region.

 
 
 

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You would hope that the Vancouver region could work on a cohesive vision of accessibility and affordability that includes actively listening to the Mayors’ Council and Metro Vancouver and their long-term plan. But in Delta with their 100,000 plus population and reliance on all things vehicle and related to the Port, an analysis of the best approach at the Massey Tunnel crossing holds no compromise-they want their bridge.
The Vancouver Sun and Jennifer Saltman report on the meeting held with Delta’ mayor and city manager  with the editorial board of the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers.  You wonder if that editorial board was able to keep a straight face with the pronouncements that were pretty positional from Delta’s top brass. They maintained that “replacing the George Massey Tunnel should be a priority for the new provincial government because it’s old, congested, dangerous to drivers and first responders — and will not withstand even a moderate earthquake.”

 
“This tunnel’s rotting. Are we just going to let it rot?” Delta Chief Administrative Officer George Harvie said.”  The Delta contingent trotted out the same rationale as previously reported in Price Tags-the tunnel is too old, a bridge can stand a stronger earthquake, a new tunnel will disrupt farmland and be more expensive. Nothing new here-in fact all the other mayors in the region opposed the Massey bridge project because of its impacts on regional livability, the lack of a transparent public process, and changing and insufficient background information access. But never mind that, the Mayor of Delta believes that the Mayors are not dealing with the proposed bridge because it is a Provincial initiative.
Meanwhile back in Delta the lack of consultation with local residents over the Massey crossing has been further flamed by Delta City Hall’s full-page ad in the Vancouver Sun advocating their position of “Bridge Good” and “Tunnel Bad”. As Nicholas Wong (who ran as an independent MLA in Delta) notes  “Christy Clark announced the bridge in 2013, years before any inquiry was done to evaluate alternative options. Also remember, the real cost of the bridge was purposely withheld by the Liberals and redacted in the project’s public documents. Where is the due process? Despite this, Delta still thinks all necessary information is publicly available. Our rookie MLA (Ian Paton, who is strangely serving a dual role  as an MLA AND a member of Delta Council) even went so far as to say this practice of redacting documents and withholding information, like the bridge proposal has, is “just how you do business.”
Delta can pay tens of thousands of our tax dollars to call out others for spreading rumours and misinformation, but turns around and uses statements from a report more than 28 years old as evidence for its position. There were supposed to be two phases of seismic upgrades to address those exact concerns.”
“This is by no means the extent to the unjustifiable information being put forth by those in favour of a bridge. They can continue to call this misinformation all they want, but all I did was take the time to read their own documents.
After years of research and extensively reading the documents presented on the bridge proposal, I understand how drastically any replacement option will impact our community. If anyone has any information that I do not have or questions about where or how I derive my facts, please get in touch.”

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The game of “Whack a Mole” got a little more complex in Delta where the Corporation decided to take out a whole page ad in the front section of the Vancouver Sun to get across their various points. Delta is insisting that no matter what the rest of Metro Vancouver or the Mayor’s Council says, Delta needs their ten lane overbuilt multi-billion dollar bridge to serve their 100,000 population, and the region better get on board.

With the underwhelming and sufficiently  slanted  title of  “Politics and Misinformation Must Not Stop Bridge Construction” Delta offers “the facts” on the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project. With no footnotes to direct references, we are told “Twinning the Tunnel is NOT AN OPTION!”  “THE EXISTING TUNNEL CANNOT BE SUFFICIENTLY UPGRADED!” And my personal favourite “A REPLACEMENT TUNNEL IS MORE EXPENSIVE!”. Delta suggests that a replacement  tunnel would be $4.3 billion dollars versus $3.5 billion dollars for that ten lane bridge. Imagine-in Delta’s estimates, we are only looking at financial costs, not the ecological savings of developing a tunnel with a more sound ecological footprint that does not suck up hectares of the most arable lane in Canada.
There is more hype in the rest of the ad  with no direct referencing but you get the point. There are eleven factoids and Delta is letting us know “Public safety is at risk and the solution is known-the new bridge is necessary, supported by facts and vital for the economy of the region and the province”.
There’s a website you are encouraged to go to for vital information on this bridge-www.WeNeedaBridge.ca which surprise surprise, just goes straight to the Corporation of Delta’s website.
One of the Province’s most trusted urbanists told me that he had reviewed the statistics for Delta and realized that they  had a very heavy reliance on industrialization and the Port. That comes out in the “oops” statistic where Delta tells us that “twelve per cent of the traffic moving through the tunnel are trucks”, and that is “MORE THAN 3X HIGHER THAN OTHER BRIDGES IN THE REGION”. This is not about  accessibility for the region-this is for the Corporation of Delta to continue industrializing the Fraser River and expanding truck shipping from Deltaport.
But Delta has answered all the questions to their satisfaction, with  their taxpayers footing the bill for their front newspaper section largesse. Let’s hope that non-biased crossing review is coming soon, and doesn’t require full-page newspaper ads.

 

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More hyperbole regarding the rethink of the Massey Bridge has emerged as reported in the Delta Optimist. The newly minted Delta South MLA, former Delta Councillor Ian Paton had previously said at an all candidates meeting that he could not figure out why the City of Vancouver did not “clean up” the Downtown Eastside and said that such a situation “would not be allowed” in Delta.  This time Mr. Paton takes aim at the other  politicians questioning the tunnel replacement, despite the fact that this project is not supported by Metro Vancouver or by the Mayors’ Council, is overbuilt and will cost $12 billion dollars with carrying costs, will take away the best farmland in Canada, and will be built on a sensitive floodplain.
“Our economy is at stake and the agreement between the NDP and the Green party to kill infrastructure spending for the sake of pursuing their own political interests is putting the province’s future at risk. The fact is that after years of consultation, we need a tunnel replacement urgently, and if you are sitting in traffic daily, you want a solution ASAP. By tossing aside years of consultation, planning, and design work Horgan is essentially saying he is not interested in representing folks in Delta, or B.C. for that matter.”
This is all interesting as it has been a rather one hand clapping kind of consultation, and if anyone with the government actually read through the studies you could see that there is a bit of a bias and a lot lacking in those consultative reports.  Couple that with “congestion” that could be ameliorated by simply running Deltaport 24 hours a day like every other port in North America and limiting truck traffic at peak times in the tunnel. Those solutions would not cost billions of dollars. As well all of a sudden the tunnel is not seismically sound, despite previous reports suggesting otherwise, and the fact the same tunnels are in use in Europe with anticipated long lifespans.
The BC Liberal Caucus decided to make the sensible Massey Tunnel rethink issue even a bigger conundrum, saying on twitter that “the NDP’s opposition to the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project puts the economy at risk”.  This is the same government that insisted on a transit referendum for Metro Vancouver, and after that failed, offered no solution. Not championing public transit accessibility in the region puts the economy at risk. Rethinking a multi-billion dollar expenditure that appears to be a pet project by one political party, in the wrong place for the region? Not so much.

 

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Responses to the Price Tags Initiative to End the Referendum (more here) in the order received:
 
June 6, 2017
SAM SULLIVAN – Liberal, Vancouver-False Creek
Speaking personally, expediting new transit service is a much higher priority than a new referendum. I would be in favour of removing the referendum requirement if an agreement for funding the Mayor’s plan can be achieved among the three levels of government.
______________________
 
June 19, 2017
SPENCER CHANDRA HERBERT – NDP MLA for Vancouver West End:
As an MLA who represents a community where 70% percent of us bike, bus, or walk to get to work I know the benefits of strong investments in public transit, and transportation infrastructure.
To answer your question – a BC New Democrat Government will get rid of the referendum requirement that has delayed progress on fixing lower mainland traffic congestion, and improving our transit system.
We will also work with Metro Vancouver municipalities to develop a new Translink governance model that provides the structure, the funding model and the certainty to make good transportation decisions to manage the system well, and most importantly, to get people to and from home, work and school faster.
Thank you for your continued work, and passion for a livable region,
 
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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. …

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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.

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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:

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ENDING THE REFERENDUM REQUIREMENT IN METRO

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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.

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