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Cities, TransLink should scrimp to avoid new transit tax: No campaigner

Referendum foe urges says pare projects, cut waste and shift money from civic budgets
Jordan Bateman is B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and head of the campaign against a 0.5 per cent Congestion Improvement Tax for transit and transportation in Metro Vancouver.

The leader of the No campaign in the Metro Vancouver transit referendum has unveiled his own proposed solution to avoid a new 0.5 per cent sales tax.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation B.C. director Jordan Bateman is instead calling on Metro mayors to earmark 0.5 per cent a year of future municipal revenue to transportation projects.

"Revenue growth among TransLink, Metro Vancouver and the 21 municipalities will clip along at 4.8 per cent a year over the next decade," Bateman said. "That’s far more than inflation or any other level of government."

He argued redirecting 0.5 per cent of municipal budget growth to transit, plus the same from the budgets of TransLink and the regional district, would still leave cities ample spending room, while providing the extra $250 million for transit that would come from the proposed Congestion Improvement Tax

"We wouldn’t have to pay a new sales tax, and they’d still have a 4.3 per cent windfall of new money to spend every year."

He argued the reallocation of money could be less if there are aggressive cuts at TransLink or if the mayors' 10-year plan is stretched out to 12 or 15 years.

He calls for exclusion from the plan of a new Pattullo Bridge, calling it an "attempt to hoodwink drivers" because the bridge replacement will be built no matter the referendum outcome and funded with tolls.

"The Pattullo is a safety issue," he said. "Replacing a 76-year-old bridge that may not stand up to an earthquake shouldn't be a way to troll for a few votes to fund a fancy subway in Vancouver."

Bateman's document also points to new Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner's talk of finding other methods to build light rail in Surrey if the referendum fails as evidence more of the plan may still unfold without the new regional sales.

He said a No vote will not cause "carmageddon" but will force change on TransLink, adding cuts there should be the mayors' top priority.

Bateman released a 50-page analysis from an accountant backing his solution.

Metro Vancouver mayors are panning the idea.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore said cities need their growing budgets to fund extra services as their populations increase and slicing money off would have serious implications.

"The revenue growth covers the increased costs when people move into your municipality," he said. "You've got to put in more pipes and sewer and you've got to hire more police officers."

He said the mayors' council suspects the math presented by the No TransLink Tax campaign is also wrong, but added the concept is fundamentally flawed.

"They want to rob Peter to pay Paul," Moore said. "He should tell us where he thinks we should cut. Should we cut the police department or the fire department or rec centres? Then we can have a real discussion about this."

The Yes campaign has not formally launched yet but the proposed sales tax has been endorsed by a broad coalition of groups representing businesses, students, environmentalists, labour and others.

Yes campaigners said the CTF attack was a "predictable, familiar and repetitive" litany of complaints without real solutions.

"The CTF plan is a long complaint we’ve heard before that offers no alternatives to families, workers, students, businesses and drivers who face traffic congestion, insufficient public transit and increasing air pollution," said Yes coalition member Elizabeth Model, CEO of the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association.

The new tax, along with expected provincial and federal contributions, would fund $7.5 billion in capital projects, including a new subway along Broadway in Vancouver, light rail in Surrey, 11 new B-Line express bus routes, more frequent SeaBus service and a 25 per cent lift in overall bus service.

Mail-in ballots for the transit tax referendum go out in late March and must be returned by May 29.

See Surrey and Delta reaction to plan:

No TransLink Tax - A Better Plan

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