Mayor not for transit tax

Nicole Read still plans to vote no, to protest provincial government

When it’s time to mark her ballot that will help bring more buses and trains to Maple Ridge, Mayor Nicole Read will vote no.

And she may not be alone.

Depending on what TransLink tells them on Monday, Maple Ridge councillors will decide whether they want to take a position on the controversial vote.

The mail-in referendum takes place March 16 to May 29, when Metro Vancouver voters decide if they’ll support a half-per-cent hike in the provincial sales tax to pay for more buses and rapid transit.

“When I send back my own referendum ballot, it will say no.”

Read voted against the question earlier when it was decided at the Mayors Council on Regional Transportation, one of three mayors to do so.

She can’t accept the province giving the mayors responsibility for fixing TransLink without giving them any authority to do so.

“I am opposed – unless there’s a governance change,” Read said. “I believe that there has to be an onus on behalf of the provincial government. It’s not fair to simply off-load this on to the mayors, to be responsible for the planning and the funding. We don’t have any control over true governance, control over TransLink.”

Read said Maple Ridge council is unlikely to spend money to promote one side or the other, unless clarification of some the issues is required.

Council is concerned about the promises that will be made by the mayors council just to get a yes vote. It wants “promises backed up with results,” Read added.

“We have a responsibility to make sure whatever information that is provided to Maple Ridge residents is accurate and is actually going to be delivered.

That scrutiny and clarification and seeking verifiable commitments will start to feel “really uncomfortable at some point.”

She doesn’t want Maple Ridge commuters to have a B-line promised within two or three years – then find out after the plebiscite it will take six years.

“That actually will make me so upset for our people because that would be wrong. Whatever they’re saying, we will want very concrete assurances going into the yes vote, because they’re not going to get away coming into the community and giving us a bunch of assurances that they can’t back up.”

The mayor’s council last week said a B-line connecting Maple Ridge to Coquitlam would happen within two years of the tax being approved. An e-mail from the Mayors Council last week said all documentation in the Transportation and Transit Plan will be changed to reflect that.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Coun. Gordy Robson wanted council to take a position on the plebiscite.

“Do we have a plan?”

Next Monday, council will hear directly from TransLink during its morning workshop meeting.

Robson said earlier he’ll vote no unless he gets an ironclad guarantee that Maple Ridge will have an express bus to SkyTrain in Coquitlam two years after the tax is approved.

“If they’re not prepared to do that, I don’t want to play with them.”

Coun. Craig Speirs says a rapid bus should be running by the time SkyTrain opens in Coquitlam in 2016.

“I’m willing to be convinced but I haven’t seen anything in writing.” That needs to be guaranteed, he added.

Robson would also like to have funding in place for a regional road connection, extending either 124th or 128th avenue to 256th Street to improve access Maple Ridge’s industrial area.

He’d also like Lougheed Highway four-laned all the way to Mission and for there to be a two-lane right turn at Lougheed and 222nd Street to make it easier to get on to the Haney Bypass, although he recognizes Lougheed is a provincial responsibility.