Rethink ‘doomed’ transit referendum, Corrigan urges

Burnaby mayor a holdout as Metro Vancouver board endorses TransLink upgrade vision

Metro Vancouver board chair and Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore

Metro Vancouver board chair and Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan warned Friday the expected transit tax referendum next spring is “doomed” and reiterated his opposition to the TransLink expansion plan supported by other Metro Vancouver mayors.

The issue came up at the Nov. 28 Metro Vancouver board meeting where directors discussed how the regional district should respond to the province’s call for input on a separate 10-year provincial transportation plan.

Metro mayors want Transportation Minister Todd Stone to adopt their $7.5-billion vision as the top transportation priorities for the region.

But Corrigan – who was the lone vote against the vision last June – said he still believes it is too aggressive and should be scaled down to a slimmer list of projects that has a better chance of winning public support.

“This plan is incredibly ambitious,” he told the board. “We need a more realistic plan, a more priorized plan.”

Corrigan suggested the vision is more of a “wish list” that risks allowing the province to instead pick and choose what projects will proceed, rather than the region.

Mayors are to meet in the first two weeks of December to hammer out a final request to the province for new taxes – potentially a vehicle levy, regional sales tax or regional carbon tax.

RELATED: Analysis: Referendum is challenge like no other in TransLink’s tortured history

Corrigan predicts failure of the referendum – a condition for any new taxes set by the premier – and won’t participate, calling the whole concept bad public policy.

“I can’t support involving ourselves in a process which I think is doomed and is going to be incredibly divisive,” he said. “We will just be spinning our wheels.”

Metro Vancouver board chair Greg Moore said most other mayors think the proposed transit improvements, including the Broadway subway and light rail in Surrey, are essential.

“The rest of us think this is the minimum we need to do to have a livable region,” said Moore, the mayor of Port Coquitlam.

The Metro board voted to send a letter to the province endorsing the mayors’ council vision for TransLink while also arguing in favour of land-use planning to concentrate growth along transit corridors. Corrigan and two other directors were opposed.

Actions requested of the province include ensuring government offices are located in areas well served by transit and that Victoria support the planned Experience The Fraser Canyon to Coast trail network.

Moore said the regional district is also pressing the province to respond to its unanswered questions about plans to replace the Massey Tunnel with a bridge.

He said the province’s consultation paper on its new transportation plan, dubbed On The Move, made almost no mention of transit, while highways were mentioned 14 times.

“It seems to be a somewhat preordained plan,” he said.

The mayors’ council on transportation sent a separate letter to Stone.

Besides seeking support for the TransLink vision, the council also asked the province to endorse a move to road pricing over five to eight years and to review the provincial tolling policy to enable the major tolling reforms that would be required.

It suggests a Mobility Pricing Independent Commission be created to oversee the initiative.

White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin told the board he would like to see the province support a rerouting of the BNSF rail line away from the White Rock-Crescent Beach waterfront.

He cited past landslides along the line and the threat that future ones could hit a train carrying dangerous chemicals.

“It’s a potential environmental disaster with loss of life that would make Lac Mégantic look like child’s play,” Baldwin said.