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New transit plebiscite poll shows “no” side with early advantage

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson at the vote yes campaign in full swing at Douglas College.
Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson at the vote yes campaign in full swing at Douglas College. John Hua | Global News

As ballots begin to arrive in Metro Vancouver mailboxes this week, a new poll is showing the “no” side with the early advantage. But pollsters are quick to point out, the campaign is 10 weeks long.

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.

According to a new poll by Angus Reid many respondents acknowledged traffic woes and wanting to know how the region’s transportation system will adapt to a growing city. But in spite of these concerns, the “yes” side’s campaign is weighed down with larger public concerns around TransLink and the potential for the proposed new tax money to be wasted.

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Some of the poll results which stood out include: the ‘no’ side has a 2-to-1 lead over the ‘yes’ side and ‘no’ is a sentiment widespread across Metro Vancouver. Distrust of TransLink is a major factor for those who are leaning towards voting ‘no’. Overall 39 per cent are leaning towards voting ‘no’; 22 per cent are probably voting ‘no’; 16 per cent are probably voting ‘yes’ and 10 per cent definitely voting ‘yes’.

FULL COVERAGE ON THE TRANSIT PLEBISCITE

The poll looked across different populations and found the ‘no’ side looks to be strongest in suburban areas like Surrey, Richmond/Delta and the North Shore, and among voters over 35 years of age. But when considering residents of Vancouver, the contest is more competitive — though still leaning ‘no’ with those under 35 years of age and among the university educated.

Much of the ‘no’ side’s early advantage, according to the Angus Reid poll, was attributed to the public’s distrust of TransLink. The statement, “TransLink needs to be overhauled before any big proposals go forward,” rang true for 65 per cent of Metro Vancouver voters. The other reasons for voting ‘no’ included not wanting a tax increase; seeing no benefit personally, not trusting the mayors who are campaigning for the ‘yes’ side and the proposed projects not benefiting their area.

When it came to digging deeper on the ‘yes’ side, the poll revealed “public transit needs improvement” with the highest response at 50 per cent. That was followed by traffic congestion is bad and will get worse (32 per cent); Vancouver’s future needs (28 per cent); if it’s not done now, it will cost more later (27 per cent) and environmental concerns (17 per cent).

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