Voters begin getting transit plebiscite ballots today

After months of debate, ballots for an unprecedented transit plebiscite will be arriving in mailboxes today asking Vancouver-area residents whether they’re willing to foot the bill for a massive public transportation overhaul.

The ballot gives more than 1.5 million eligible voters the option of paying 0.5 per cent sales tax in exchange for a vastly upgraded rapid transit system, hundreds more buses, additional ferries and a new bridge. It’s a huge package projected to cost $7.5 billion over a decade.

Campaign efforts have ramped up in recent weeks with some high school students heading to a Skytrain station over the weekend to talk to commuters one-on-one. Ironically the students, who are heavy users of public transit, are ineligible to vote since they’re under the age of 18.

The divide remains deep over the proposed regional increase in sales tax, but polls show the ‘no’ side remains in the lead.

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But proponents — ranging from mayors to big business to police chiefs — argue the vote is actually a pivotal choice.

WATCH: Don Main with Elections BC talks about everything you need to know about voting in the Metro Vancouver transit plebiscite

A ‘yes’ vote, they say, will allow them to transform deteriorating infrastructure into their vision for economic and environmental prosperity; a ‘no’ vote would mean an unsustainable crush of cars on roads.

“Our environment and our quality life are deeply impacted by the ease and efficiency of how people and goods move throughout the Lower Mainland,” Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson said in early February.

“So there’s really one key question that people need to ask themselves when they get the referendum ballot and that is, how does Metro Vancouver grow by one million people and still remain livable? How do we do that? It starts by voting ‘yes’ on this referendum.”

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The No campaign has been spearheaded by the B.C. wing of The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, saying TransLink, the corporation that operates the transit system, is wasteful.

The mayors’ council has avoided including the TransLink logo on campaign posters, and the mayors distanced their plan from criticism of the corporation.

Residents will receive ballots in the mail beginning today and have a deadline of May 29 to submit their vote.

~ with files from Canadian Press and Jon Azpiri

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