COLUMN: Owners win with more transit

I’m seldom taken in by pranks but this TransLink referendum . . . it must be an April Fool’s Day joke, right?

Mike Shields

By Mike Shields

I’m seldom taken in by pranks but this TransLink referendum . . . it must be an April Fool’s Day joke, right?

I mean politicians (and appointees) can’t make do within a given budget and the only solution is spending $6 million on a campaign to shift responsibility for a new tax away, from themselves?

I can’t roll my eyes as far back in my head as my 12-year-old niece when she says it but, “You can’t be serious?”

Yes?

Well OK then, according to its website “through negotiations with the Province of B.C., TransLink was born in 1999 . . . responsible for both the major road network and the public transit system . . . with the means to raise its own funds through taxation.”

Notably, negotiations between a provincial NDP government and the Greater Vancouver Regional District compromised on a mid-point scenario for capital projects – to be funded by transit fares, a gasoline tax of up to six cents litre, parking sales taxes, plus any new taxes the GVRD took responsibility for imposing.

So in April 2000, a $75 per vehicle levy was proposed, without which a resulting “lack of maintenance” would doom the system, according to then chairman George Puil. When ICBC balked at collecting that levy, TransLink trimmed its budget by $7 million and the province authorized two more cents a litre in gasoline taxes.

Later, TransLink also received a reallocation of federal gas taxes (2002); three more cents per litre in regional fuel tax (2007); replacement of the parking tax by property taxes (2008) and a default allocation of three per cent of all Metro property taxes (according to the Vancouver Sun as of 2014).

Simultaneously,  numerous highways, bridges, and subways were completed – though resistance by local politicians to raising property taxes meant most projects owed more to (2010 Winter Olympics-inspired) federal and provincial allocations than to TransLink efforts.

Not that such contributions are unusual:  From former Premier Glen Clark: “For the big picture stuff . . . the province has historically . . . paid the money, set the priority and turned it over.”

Unfortunately, today’s regimes in both Victoria and Ottawa find it politically preferable to balance their budgets by offloading responsibilities rather than (gasp!) spending cuts or (double gasp!!) taxation.

As neither a city planner nor regular transit user, I won’t weigh in on whether TransLink’s current expansion plans are well meaning and/or well designed.

But I resent the sneaky replacement of progressive tax strategies with regressive ones. Specifically, the Yes campaign exaggerates opposition as a vote for sitting in traffic all day long.

But by the same measure, the steady decrease in marginal rates for the top Canadian tax brackets seems like they’re trying to trick us into transferring more taxes on to the middle class.

Indeed, so much of modern Vancouver’s wealth derives from real estate appreciation, resulting from well-funded infrastructure, it’s impossible to not wonder why these “nouveau riche” shouldn’t pay for the same opportunities for future generations.

On a nominal dollar basis, property owners will derive greater benefit from any TransLink expansion, than will the low-income single parent barely scraping by.

And economically, if new revenue is absolutely essential, try something different.

In Australia, a foreign property purchase surtax raises funds while helping keep residents from being priced out of the housing markets they grew up in!

Look, regardless of the vote outcome, TransLink is going to expand: Even after the aforementioned vehicle levy failed, their expenditures doubled from 2001 to 2012 (from $631M to $1.4B, both figures in 2013 dollars).

And circa 2000, this was their raison d’etre: “Transportation was the top issue in the Lower Mainland. Skyrocketing rates of car ownership and gridlock on the roads made commuting a nightmare, as well as challenging efficient goods movement and producing environmentally damaging emissions.”

Am I missing something or is this not still the case after 15 years of TransLink “successes?”

Part 2 to follow. Mike Shields hosts SFU’s Philosopher’s Cafe at the ACT every fourth Thursday of the month.

 

Just Posted

Maple Ridge chef tops in B.C. for agriculture in the classroom

Chef Brian Smith named the B.C. Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year

Flames drop to eighth in PJHL

Ridge loses two games over the weekend

Man known to frequent Maple Ridge wanted by Langley RCMP

An arrest warrant is out for Bryce Telford for allegedly impersonating a police officer

New Maple Ridge council has old problem: Albion flats

Staff asking for politicians to decide direction

Canada’s archive buys rare book that hints at Nazi plans for North America

The 1944 book may have served as a blueprint for a Nazi purge

Teravainen’s 3 points lift Hurricanes to 5-2 win over Canucks

Vancouver heads into all-star break on losing note

B.C. hospital apologizes for veteran’s five-day hallway stay

Clinical director of Victoria General Hospital says case of retired veteran ‘definitely excessive’

Speaker Darryl Plecas says ‘justice’ needed for legislature employees

Plecas spoke to media at the opening of a pedestrian and cycling bridge in Abbotsford Wednesday

Advocate hopes B.C. legislature scandal leads to more transparency

‘Depressing’ that it takes a scandal to inspire freedom of information reform, says Sara Neuert

‘Dr. Lipjob’ avoids jail, gets 30-day suspended sentence

She will have to serve the 30 days in prison if she commits a breach during her two-year’s probation

Ex-Mountie involved in Taser death at Vancouver airport sues government

Kwesi Millington claims he acted in accordance with RCMP training

47 men arrested by Vancouver police for allegedly seeking sex with teenage girls

Seven of those arrested have been charged as part of a two-month operation

Surrey farmers taking stock of revamped Canada Food Guide

Products that were once big at the table — like meat and dairy — have been put on the back-burner

Most Read