Two days before the May 29 voting deadline, more than half of registered voters living in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows still had to turn in their transportation and transit referendum ballots.
According to Elections B.C., only 5,777 ballots had been turned in from the 12,866 registered voters living in Pitt Meadows.
In Maple Ridge, a total of 25,819 ballots had been turned in from 54,504 registered voters.
As of Wednesday, 698,900 Metro Vancouver ballots, equating to 44.7 per cent of the 1.56 million registered voter count, had been received and screened by Elections B.C.
Residents are being asked to say yes or no to a 0.5 per cent increase in the provincial sales tax to fund various transportation improvements, including new rapid transit and express bus lines.
No TransLink Tax campaign leader Jordan Bateman is confident the proposed tax hike will be defeated.
“Voters have stood up against the scare tactics of the Yes side and are voting against the TransLink Mayors, who have spent $7 million in taxpayer money to defend an agency the public knows is wasteful and unaccountable,” he said.
The No campaign says it’s spent about $40,000 and voluntarily released an updated list of donors that shows roughly half the campaign has been funded by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. The province did not set any rules on campaign spending or financing.
Peter Robinson, a co-chair of the 145-group Better Transportation and Transit Coalition, said the turnout shows residents understand the issue is extremely important and urged a final push to get out the Yes vote.
“When more people vote in a transit and transportation plebiscite than cast ballots for their local mayor and council last November, it’s clear how central this issue is to our communities.”
Yes coalition officials say they are ready to continue advocating for improvements regardless of the outcome.
Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker said he turned in his ballot so long ago he could not remember which day it was, but his support of the tax never wavered during the campaign.
Ensuring Metro Vancouver communities like Pitt Meadows had access to efficient transportation services was of the “highest priority” simply because residents were so dependent on them.
“In Pitt Meadows, over 80 per cent of our residents have to leave the community for work,” he said.
Although Becker reported he continued to remain optimistic the majority would vote in favor of the new transit tax and members of the mayors’ council did not have a back-up plan for a negative vote result, he did indicate the council would be ready to address that possibility.
“If the referendum fails, we will have to roll up our sleeves, clear our desks from referendum details and get to work because the current status quo isn’t sustainable,” he maintained.
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read recently confirmed she had voted no near the start of the referendum. She reiterated her reasoning, which included putting the responsibility of funding improvements back on to the provincial government and the general consensus of Maple Ridge residents.
“There just isn’t a strong appetite for the yes vote here. Most of our residents don’t have trust in TransLink,” she said.
The deadline for Elections B.C. to receive voters’ ballots is 8 p.m., Friday, May 29.
Anyone who is voting at the last minute is advised to drop ballots off at one of nine plebiscite offices. In Maple Ridge, an office is located inside Haney Place Mall.
Elections B.C. staff will continue screening and verification of ballots after the voting deadline once all ballots arrive in Victoria next week.
Results are to be announced in late June.