WATCH: Metro Vancouver voters have overwhelmingly voted “No” to an increased sales tax to pay for transit improvements… so what now? Ted Chernecki reports
The transit plebiscite results are in and Metro Vancouver residents have cast their ballots.
The ‘No’ side has won with 62 per cent (61.68 per cent). Thirty-eight per cent of voters said ‘yes’ to the tax (38.32 per cent).
Belcarra, Bowen Island and Electoral Area A (including UBC) were the only areas to vote ‘yes’ in the plebiscite. The City of Vancouver was very close to voting ‘yes’, with 49.19 per cent.
Voters in the City of Maple Ridge cast the most ‘No’ votes with 77.03 per cent. The Township of Langley came second, with 74.97 per cent. The Cities of Langley, Pitt Meadows and Richmond were close behind, with an average of 72 per cent.
Residents were asked to use a mail-in ballot, starting in mid-March, to show their support or to reject a half per cent tax hike. A ‘yes’ vote would have generated about $250 million annually to fund the transportation improvements over the next 10 years.
The tax would have been used to pay for more buses, roads, a new Pattullo Bridge, a light rail line, transit exchanges, increased SkyTrain, West Coast Express and SeaBus service and new bikeways.
The official question was:
“Do you support a new 0.5% Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax, to be dedicated to the Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan?”
Numbers released in late May showed almost half the amount of eligible voters sent in their ballot. The final number of ballots considered was 759,696. There were 2,513 rejected ballots.
Opponents to the transit tax argued against giving Translink more money to fund these projects.
The ‘yes’ side argued that without more money for new upgrades and projects, Metro Vancouver will only become more congested as populations increase.
TransLink interim CEO Doug Allen responds to the vote:
“The fact it’s a no, it’s not my preference, but that’s the will of those who voted,” said Allen. “And we must respect that.”
“So TransLink will continue to work day in, day out, to deliver the best, the safest, most reliable and the most efficient system possible. We must recognize however, it will not be easy because we will not be able to expand. Our revenue base essentially will be flat, or falling, and we’ll simply have to do a lot of things better in order to provide the kind of service we’ve been providing to date.”
In a statement on the TransLink website, Allen said:
“With no new funding, we will have no capacity to expand the transit system or provide increased service. Costs and customer demand will rise at a time when funding is essentially frozen. As a result, current service levels may be affected and we could face tough decisions in the weeks and months ahead.”
WATCH: Doug Allen responds to the transit tax result:
Jordan Bateman, the No TransLink Tax spokesperson and director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in B.C., said in a statement “cash-strapped Lower Mainland taxpayers wanting accountability and better management at TransLink are the real winners” in the defeat of the sales tax.
“Our campaign didn’t have millions of taxpayer dollars or fancy CEOs committing their groups to our cause – we had everyday taxpayers who simply believe TransLink wastes too much of our money to be trusted with any more of it. This is a win for all of us.”
WATCH: Jordan Bateman reacts to results:
What happens now?
The Mayors’ Council say there isn’t another plan now that the transit tax has been voted down. “There’s no ‘plan B’ for funding that’s envisioned here,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Property tax is not an option to fund the mayors’ plan going forward. We need an alternate solution from the BC Government.”
“We’ll look at what our options are to try and get the Broadway line built. It’s very difficult to work out how we might get specific projects advanced.”
He did state however that “immediate governance changes to TransLink are critical” and in the absence of progress in the funding gap and TransLink accountability and governance, by the end of 2015, the Mayors’ Council will be forced to reconsider its role within the Translink governance structure.
Municipalities will have to look at its own community plans to see if any changes can be made. Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner has already stated that with a ‘no’ vote, the light rail line in Surrey will still go ahead.
“I have had interested parties speak to me, relative to their private parties interested in financing that project and I continue to expect the provincial government and the federal government, since we’re through a screening process already, to be prepared to fund that project and I may have to look at those private partners, much like the Canada Line is,” said Hepner.
Other projects are up in the air however, such as Vancouver’s Broadway subway line and the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge.
TransLink has already committed $100 million to maintaining the bridge for up to 10 more years, but its fate after that is unknown.
“Bottom line is, we want to see the province come back with solutions on the funding gap, and on TransLink governance and accountability, which was raised repeatedly throughout the referendum,” said Robertson.
WATCH: The Mayors’ Council on the results:
– With files from The Canadian Press