Ridge, Pitt mayors confused by TransLink referendum chaos

If the province wants to piggy back the vote about transportation funding on to civic elections, it should help pay the costs.  - THE NEWS/files
If the province wants to piggy back the vote about transportation funding on to civic elections, it should help pay the costs.
— image credit: THE NEWS/files

Both local mayors are blasting the provincial government for its handling of TransLink and tacking a referendum on to this fall’s civic election.

Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters can’t keep up with the constantly changing approach the senior government takes towards the transportation agency.

“It changes daily,” Walters said last week.

“Every time I hear a report in the morning, something has changed and we’re finding about it a day or two later, what the province is up to.”

The provincial government wants to add a vote on how TransLink will be funded to the November election ballot when new mayors and councils are chosen.

Premier Christy Clark hinted Monday she could delay the vote, although there was no specific announcement.

Walters wonders why the mayors have been asked to help draft the question.

“It’s their referendum. Now they’re saying to us, who have no governing authority, what do you want the question to be?”

She added that it’s hard to stay up to date with provincial government plans and agrees with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson that mayors have proposed several funding solutions, only to have the province reject them. She heard again last week that TransLink’s governance might change again.

Walters said there’s now been three transportation ministers since she’s been mayor and disagrees with current minister Todd Stone’s suggestion that a small increase in the TransLink levy charged to Metro Vancouver homeowners would pay for most upgrades. The average levy now for Metro Vancouver homeowners is $235 yearly.

“We feel the heat if we go up 1.9 per cent,” Walters said.

“It’s not fair and it’s certainly not fair to taxpayers.”

She favours former mayor Don MacLean’s position that the transportation authority be subject to overall Metro Vancouver with its board composed of local mayors.

“As mayors, we have no authority on TransLink. And that should be unacceptable to the taxpayer.

“That should be totally unacceptable to all residents that mayors can’t represent them properly with a proper voice that’s heard at the table.”

Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin also doesn’t like the idea of having a TransLink vote combined with local elections.

If the province wants to piggy back the vote about transportation funding on to civic elections, it should help pay the costs, he said.

He added that the provincial government is trying to portray Metro Vancouver and TransLink’s mayors council as dysfunctional.

“If we’re so dysfunctional, how did we come up with the Regional Growth Strategy?”

The strategy is a long-term plan to shaping Metro Vancouver’s growth, involving 23 member municipalities.

Liberal MLA Marc Dalton, though, says taxpayers need to have a say in how TransLink spends its dollars.

“The government has put a lot of money into capital costs [such as the Evergreen Line].

“We just feel that the people need to make a decision on this because they’re going to impact the public’s pocketbook.”

Metro Vancouver mayors previously have proposed  a vehicle levy, a small regional sales tax, a share of carbon tax and eventually some form of road pricing, all of which have been rejected by the province.

Dalton though says the vote will allow taxpayers to give their opinion on each of those.

He hasn’t received feedback from the public on the topic. “I’m not saying it’s not an important issue,” or could become one, he added. “People appreciate they’ll have a voice on a tax increase.”

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Doug Bing likes the idea of a professional board running TransLink, adding the mayor’s council makes the final decisions.

But he favours delaying the vote and generally doesn’t like referendums.

“I think it really needs to have a little more cooperation and agreement before we go ahead really,” Bing said.

“It’s very hard to simplify very complicated issues down to a simple yes-no question on a ballot. People will vote

on emotion rather than a well thought-out rational reason for voting.”

Bing is to resign his Pitt Meadows seat on Feb. 4.


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