Phase 1 of Mayors Plan on transportation, includes more West Coast Express cars, but no increase in frequency.

Phase 1 of Mayors Plan on transportation, includes more West Coast Express cars, but no increase in frequency.

New source for TransLink money, needs another referendum, B.C. Liberals say

That will delay transportation planning again, while federal and provincial dollars sit waiting

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows and Metro Vancouver could have to go through another referendum if TransLink needs new sources of cash for the second part of the Mayor’s Plan.

Both senior governments have committed $2.2 billion each for Phase 2 of the Mayors’ Plan, which includes light rail to Surrey and extending the Broadway SkyTrain in Vancouver, along with bus improvements.

That leaves TransLink covering between $50 million and $100 million as its share of the plan.

“Our hope is that the Mayors’ Council and Metro will obtain their share, a significantly reduced share, through existing means,” said Marc Dalton, Liberal candidate for Maple Ridge-Mission.

But if TransLink wants a new source of money – such as raising the provincial sales tax or bringing in a road tax, or vehicle levy – current law requires a referendum to first gain public support, Dalton added.

“We’re committed to matching, dollar for dollar, the federal government’s investments for capital costs of the new transit projects for the next 11 years,” Dalton said.

He pointed out TransLink’s share is now smaller thanks to the commitments by the senior governments. TransLink now only has to pay 20 per cent of Phase 2 instead of a third, he pointed out.

“I think people appreciate that. If people are paying more taxes, they would like to have a say in that.”

TransLink held a referendum in 2015 on raising the provincial sales tax by .5 per cent to pay for transportation improvements, but that was defeated, with Maple Ridge having the strongest component of ‘no’ votes.

NDP candidate Bob D’Eith said his party supports the Mayor’s Council and the study that starts soon on mobility pricing.

“I think that the Liberals haven’t been cooperating with the Mayor’s Council and the result is gridlock.”

The last referendum slowed transportation planning down by four years, said D’Eith.

“By not working with the mayors, now we’re four years behind.”

The NDP also plans on removing tolls on the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges, while the Liberals will cap toll costs at $500 a year for motorists.

“Yes, we have to pay for it, and we’ll work with the mayors to come up with a fair way. That’s the key, is fairness,” D’Eith said, noting the new bridge in Kelowna and the Sea to Sky Highway aren’t tolled.

New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote said the public doesn’t seem aware it could be facing another referendum. What he hears from most people is why the mayors and provincial government just can’t improve transportation.

The mayors were surprised when the Liberals replied in an election questionnaire that another vote would be needed for any new revenue source.

Cote said the time spent fighting another referendum is better spent working on improving transportation.

With less of a funding gap, maybe there’s no need to have another referendum, he added.

Maybe the referendum is way for the Liberals to say they support the Mayor’s Plan, but ensuring it will never happen, Cote added.

Phase 1 of the Mayor’s Plan is now in the process of being implemented, including a B-line bus from Coquitlam SkyTrain to downtown Maple Ridge.

The B-line bus is to be in place by 2019.

Green party candidate in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, Alexander Pope, said no other B.C. cities have to have referendums on transit projects, adding there’s no referendum on building the new Massey bridge.

“We don’t see why we would need one for TransLink.”