Maple Ridge chamber backs proposed .5 % sales tax

Becker disagrees with referendum, says provincial gov't copping out

The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows chamber of commerce has listened to its parent organization and is backing the new transportation tax referendum.

“The board of directors did vote in favour of supporting the mayors,” said chamber president Terry Becker. “Everyone was in agreement, transportation has to be improved.”

Traffic gridlock costs the Metro Vancouver $1 billion a year, said Becker, citing earlier statements.

Jon Garson with the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, made the pitch before Christmas, asking local businesses to support the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition, composed of the Vancouver Board of Trade, Tourism Vancouver, and Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association.

The coalition has created a pledge for other groups who support the tax to sign. The pledge says that a yes vote for more TransLink funding will “strengthen our economy, reduce pollution, improve the health of our communities and make this region a more affordable place to live.”

The Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation has proposed a half-per-cent increase on the seven-per-cent provincial sales tax to help fund the mayor’s transportation vision – a $7.5-billion 10-year package of upgrades – unveiled last June – includes a Broadway subway, light rail in Surrey, 11 new B-line express bus routes, frequent SeaBuses and a 25 per cent general lift in bus service, as well as more money for HandyDart and West Coast Express.$7.5 billion.

The government has approved the question, with the small change of making it separate from the sales tax and instead calling it Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax.

Becker, though, opposes the entire referendum process, saying the provincial government is dishing it off on to the mayors.

“I think they have downloaded the decision. I would have preferred that it be dealt with at the provincial level and not downloaded to the mayors.”

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read was one of only three mayors on the council to oppose the question because she says mayors are given accountability for TransLink without the ability to run it.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore recently told Pitt Meadows council that this area could be among the first to benefit if the mail-in referendum is passed next March or April. Starting a B-line service between Maple Ridge and the new Evergreen SkyTrain line in Coquitlam could be one of the quickest projects to do.

Becker said she’s concerned about the traffic choke points on Lougheed Highway between 200th and 203rd Street.

TransLink calculates that the 0.5 per cent increase in PST will cost the average family in the region $125 per year.