Open mic: Transportation plebiscite a joke

Fact is, each step better we make our transportation system is another upward increment in the number of people who will relocate here.

I previously expressed hope the TransLink plebiscite was an early April Fools joke rather than $6-million-plus of our own money being spent so current politicians can keep campaigning on ‘Read my lips – no new tax’ slogans.

Specifically, the mayors could have implemented their sales tax plan without a referendum – but doing so ties future electoral prospects to TransLink performance, and nobody is that crazy.

Fact is, each step better we make our transportation system is another upward increment in the number of people who will relocate here.

Constrained as we are by rivers and mountains, at some point tax dollars will be better spent making Victoria and Nanaimo more competitive, n’est-ce pas?

Which is but another example why the Yes side’s “there is no Plan B” argument is literally insulting.

Rather than career politicians creating consulting opportunities for when they leave office, a ‘lack of alternatives’ is what many taxpayers face when journeying to work.

The good news from such a claim, though, is if the unimaginable transpires, there should be some principled resignations, right?

I’ll leave it to more impassioned voices to supplement my “No” rationale with a recitation of TransLink’s operating shortcomings. But I do feel it worth emphasizing that the projects being promised are unlikely to go ahead without federal and provincial contributions, which are all but impossible at the moment given the drop in oil and gas prices/royalties.

Similarly, that the math involved with estimating sales revenue, transit user fees, construction overruns, interest rates, and maintenance costs are both speculative and highly variable also makes me uneasy the ‘negligible’ 0.5 per cent rate will not increase in coming years.

And I’d highlight that a taxation-by-referendum precedent opens a Pandora’s box, especially for a provincial government already siphoning and using millions of dollars from B.C. Hydro, ICBC, and the sale of government properties to deliver a ‘balanced’ budget.

Care to take the under bet on when a PST surtax for B.C. Ferries arrives in the event of a “Yes” vote?

Instead, in line with the occasion, I’ll conclude with a more timely alternative:  hiring a new CEO at $35,000 a month during the referendum was admittedly pretty laughable to us average folks.

That said, without disparaging any betters, I have a more prestigious “MBA” that Mr. Allen, albeit less management consulting” experience to the government sector than he.

My thought then is TransLink could hire as CEO not the prime minister (who earns $140,000/year less) nor the head of Seattle’s transit system (who earns $270,000/year less), but given the lack of real deliverables, someone like me for about one-tenth their current rate.

See, the way I figure it is that being around the median Canadian income would make me less out of touch with the majority of TransLink’s core users.

And my experience exclusively in the private sector infers I’d be humble enough as to recruit business icons like Jimmy Pattison for real input rather than as a last minute vote grab.

Which I think is what makes this April Fool’s proposal so hilarious, because, cynicism aside, it seems clear that daring to point out the Emperor has no clothes probably makes one unemployable by these sort of quasi-government agencies.


– Mike Shields grew up locally and hosts SFU’s Philosopher’s Café Sessions at the Maple Ridge Act Theater, 7 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of every month.