Despite the fast-approaching date set for the TransLink referendum, the province is still not giving much information on it.
Earlier this year, the province set Nov. 15 as the date for a referendum regarding TransLink funding, but no details on how it will be worded have yet to come forward. The referendum may be pushed back to spring 2014.
“I am focused on working with the Mayors’ Council on governance, funding options and the referendum in order to build on our world-class transportation network and to meet the demands of a growing population,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone in a statement to the Burnaby NOW. “These are complex issues and I am going to work through these matters with the Mayors’ Council.”
The Mayors’ Council is tasked with having to suggest different funding avenues to the province for TransLink, but this time the public is being given a voice on how to run the transportation authority.
“The upcoming transportation funding referendum will give taxpayers a say in how to pay for the transportation systems that they rely on,” Stone said. “The government stated that it would support new funding tools that are affordable for families, regionally sourced, avoid negative effects on the economy, and capture benefits from the substantial investments made in Metro Vancouver’s transportation system.”
However, with the referendum less than two months away, Stone gave no details on how the referendum will be worded or who will fund the campaign – or what the consequences will be in the case of a “no” vote.
Gordon Price is Simon Fraser University’s director of The City Program, and a former Vancouver city councillor who served for six terms. He also was on the board of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (now Metro Vancouver), and TransLink.
“I think everyone’s waiting aren’t they? We need the wording,” he told the NOW. “I think there’s a certain amount of deer in the headlights from the people who are just beginning to think through what the consequences of this might be.”
Price said the people he’s spoken to about it so far say a TransLink referendum will not pass and it could turn into a vote on TransLink, rather than a vote on TransLink funding.
“Some will take every opportunity to send TransLink a message,” he said.
“Some are asking why they’re voting on TransLink, but not on other aspects of the transportation system.”
Price said the issue gets complicated as a “no” vote on TransLink funding could mean any new major transportation projects could come to a halt, such as the Massey Tunnel.
“On one hand people will say, ‘Oh yeah, sure,’ (for a new project),” he said. “The moment you ask them, ‘how would you like to do that?’ it’s very tough to get a regional consensus. Leaving those complications aside, who’s leading the escapade?”
When the wording finally comes forward, Price asked who will fund the campaign and what stance will the province take? He expects it will get tricky in a post-HST environment.
“It goes back to this fundamental point, why are we doing this? What’s to be gained here when you consider the risk?” he said. “I’m not optimistic about it. I’m very pessimistic of what the results would be of a ‘no’ vote because we don’t get to go back without another referendum to put together a deal.”
Price said it’s also demoralizing for TransLink, which is already “not in great shape morale-wise.”
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