North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton (left) is chair of the Mayors Council on Regional Transportation. Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender is vice-chair.

North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton (left) is chair of the Mayors Council on Regional Transportation. Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender is vice-chair.

New vote of Metro mayors likely on TransLink tax hike

Express bus runs at stake if audit fails to plug $75-million gap

Metro Vancouver mayors are bracing for a new clash later this fall over whether to sacrifice planned transit expansions in Surrey and Langley in order to avoid a TransLink property tax increase set for next year.

Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender said he would be “very, very surprised” if a nearly complete provincial audit of TransLink finds enough savings to plug all of the funding gaps facing the cash-strapped system.

TransLink froze several projects in April, including a new Highway 1 rapid bus service from Langley over the new Port Mann Bridge and a new B-Line express bus down King George Boulevard in Surrey, after mayors voted to scrap a $30 million property tax hike for the next two years.

But that vote wasn’t legally binding, so a new one would have to take place on a formal TransLink supplement this fall that could rescind the tax hike and potentially make further cuts.

Only a huge raft of savings uncovered by auditors and TransLink’s internal belt-tightening efforts would allow the region to proceed with the express bus projects  and avoid the higher tax.

“We don’t have to find just $30 million,” Fassbender said. “We have to find close to $75 million. The reason is the gas tax is down significantly.”

TransLink estimates its fuel tax take from the 15 cents per litre it collects within Metro Vancouver will bring in $120 million less over the next three years than it has counted on in its Moving Forward plan.

It’s not clear why less fuel is being bought in the region, but out-of-region buying, possibly amplified by cross-border shopping, is thought to be one factor.

Fassbender said he fears actual service cuts – never mind the expansions – are a real possibility for TransLink if the property tax hike is repealed.

He said he will vote against such a supplement and lobby other mayors to defeat the measure, proceed with the tax hike and hopefully launch the new bus routes.

“Myself and other mayors south of the Fraser will be fighting hard to keep the property tax for the next two years, ” he said.

The TransLink mayors’ council never intended that the tax hike go ahead when it was approved a year ago – it was merely to be a backup in case negotiations with the province on new funding sources, such as a vehicle levy, collapsed.

But confidence of a new deal turned out misplaced as the province this spring refused to consider new sources until a full audit is complete.

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom has said he remains optimistic the Highway 1 express bus will be in place when the new Port Mann Bridge opens.

“It would be ludicrous to suggest the millions of dollars that have been spent to provide the infrastructure for rapid buses wouldn’t be used,” Fassbender said.

Mayors Council chair Richard Walton, mayor of the North Vancouver District, acknowledged the divisions that have opened between cities over the issue.

“Obviously there are differing regional priorities and tensions,” he said.

The property tax hike would add $23 to the tax bill for the average Metro home.

Meanwhile, Walton said mayors will also be looking at what new TransLink governance model they should support.

The province offered a modest change to the existing board that would add two directors – the mayors’ council chair and vice-chair – but keep majority control with the remaining unelected directors. Mayors quickly rejected that proposal.

Walton said most mayors now appear to support a complete return to the previous TransLink model, where elected mayors and councillors were appointed by the Metro Vancouver board.

But he said TransLink is pulling together research on possible alternatives.

“There may be some hybrid models that have been successful that we can learn from.”

It’s hoped the mayors can agree on a preferred option that they would then propose to whichever new government takes power after next May’s provincial election.

Walton said he doesn’t see any chance of the province agreeing to deeper reform at TransLink before the election.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Students in Garibaldi secondary’s music program rehearse for Swing into Spring. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge high school adding a spring to their step

Swing into Spring concert to raise money for the Garibaldi secondary’s music program

In a 2019 photograph, Yin Yin Din held a picture of her brother Kyaw Naing Din, 54, and her late father Hla Din who passed away in 2014, during a trip to Victoria. (The News files)
Family of Maple Ridge man killed by cop appeals to Attorney General for help

The Din family want B.C. Attorney General David Eby to forward their case to Crown

Maple Ridge's Doug Ubell caught some photographs recently that he was anxious to share, one taken while on the Trans-Canada Trail looking southwest towards the Pitt River Bridge, and another from on Golden Ears Bridge. (Special to The News)
Traffic on Golden Ears Bridge returning to pre-pandemic levels

Commuters from Langley, Pitt Meadows, and Maple Ridge still driving more, taking transit less

A sign to students outside Pitt Meadows secondary. The school is not currently listed by Fraser Health as having COVID-19 exposures. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Four more Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows schools exposed to COVID-19

Cases at three public schools and Maple Ridge Christian

Born and raised in Maple Ridge, Ernie Daykin is still astonished at this community’s beauty. He recently captured this image of the snow covered peaks of the Golden Ears in the background, and cherry blossoms in the foreground. (Special to The News)
SHARE: View of Golden Ears from many different perspectives

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Of 46 arrests made between March 16 and 19 at Metrotown mall in Burnaby, 27 suspected shoplifters are now facing charges. (Twitter/Burnaby RCMP)
RCMP arrest 46 people in 4 days during Metrotown shoplifting crackdown

$4,800 in stolen merchandise was recovered and returned to businesses inside of the mall

Kao Macaulay has been charged in relation to a home break-in on March 30 in Abbotsford in which five kittens were stolen. (Facebook photo)
‘Prolific offender’ charged with theft of 5 newborn kittens in Abbotsford

Kao Macaulay, 23, is accused of breaking into home on March 30

Sheila Malcolmson, B.C.’s minister of mental health and addictions (Screen shot)
Minister of mental health tells Surrey audience COVID-19 ‘has made everything worse’

More than 23,000 people in B.C. are receiving medication to treat opioid addiction

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Most Read