The leaders of Canada’s three main parties have promised hundreds of millions of dollars for transit projects, but that money could go to waste because local politics has meant mayors don’t have a way to pay for their third of the bill.
“We can’t let it slip through our fingers,” said Metro Vancouver board chair Greg Moore of transit funding promises made on the federal campaign trail. “It is too important for our region moving forward.”
The region’s mayors are looking at various ways to generate additional revenue, but any new money gets caught up in the same old problems–the provincial government wants people to vote on it.
“I said to the mayors, any new funding source in legislation requires a referendum and to go to the public,” said TransLink minister Peter Fassbender.
The mayors have many options, but face just as many roadblocks.
Implementing tolls on existing bridges would require a referendum. Road pricing for existing highways also needs to go to a vote.
That leaves mayors with the prospect of a vehicle levy, an idea that was aleady tried twice and failed both times.
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Then there are property taxes. Homeowners in Metro Vancouver already pay $300 million to TransLink each year. Another $250 million is needed to fund the mayors’ plan, which would nearly double what homeowners pay. For an average homeowner that comes to $300 a year.
“The mayors have said for eight years now that increasing property tax is not a viable solution,” said Moore.
Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said that “people are still upset with TransLink. People still don’t want to give them more money. Fix that organization first.”
Fixing TransLink is a political football neither the province (which created it) nor the mayors (who technically run it) seem willing to tackle.
Despite the fact the federal government appears to be ready to move forward with funding, the end result is a regional transit system stuck in its tracks.
-With files from Aaron McArthur