Punching above our weight

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Originally posted March 25, 2015 written by Mayor Murray Skeels

I need your help. As Mayor of Bowen I’m part of the Mayors’ Council that is proposing you all pay more taxes. Did you feel that little twinge in your stomach when you read, “pay more taxes”. That was a gut level response; we all have them all the time. Usually they serve us well and our thought process stops there. But this is one of those occasions when you would be well served to put a bit more thought into the matter. Start with “how much”.

The new tax will be 0.5% of PST taxable items. Unless you love math, that isn’t much help.  Another way to put it is that your family will pay about 35 cents per day. Two thoughts probably just popped into your head. First came “What do I get for it?” But the second was “That’s not very much”.  If somebody convinces you that you won’t get anything you get to stop thinking again. Somehow 35 cents every day sounds like a lot of money. You don’t stop to consider that is less than the cost of one cup of coffee each week.

But getting back to what you get for your $2.45 each week; the short answer is that you won’t get stuck in a traffic jam every time you go to town. But the long answer is better if you stop to think about it. The $125 your family contributes every year will be matched by almost a million other families living in Metro Vancouver. Because we’re paying a sales tax everybody who travels into the area and businesses also pay. Between them they double the amount collected. This takes us to $250 million dollars every year to be spent on buses and another Seabus and subways and trains. There are also multipliers and spinoffs and all kinds of good things but I don’t want to bore you. And I want to get back to why I need your help.

You should now have received in the mail your ballot to vote in the plebiscite. I’m asking you to be sure you vote and mail it in. And I’m asking you to vote “Yes”. While everybody from the David Suzuki Foundation to the Board of Trade have presented innumerable reasons to vote yes I’d like you to consider it from a slightly different perspective.

Bowen is a very tiny part of Metro Vancouver. The number of votes we can contribute to the Yes side is tiny and aren’t likely to carry the day. However the votes are going to be announced by Municipality. We will be told what percentage of voters cast ballots and what percentages voted yes and no. The Mayors will be inhaling these numbers like air. And they will remember for a decade which Municipality cast the highest percentage of ballots and which had the highest percentage of Yes votes. If I happen to be the Mayor of that Municipality I’m going to be a very popular guy for a while. And that is exactly what Bowen needs.

Crippen Park provides many islanders with a very pleasant recreational amenity and the taxpayers of Metro Vancouver pay it for. Unfortunately the heritage cabins in the Orchard have been in need of restoration since the park opened 30 years ago. This is a major project and one we’d like to see completed in the next three years. To get the approval we’re going to need all the friends we can get.

Another priority for Municipal Council during this term is creating a transportation master plan. Implementing it will almost certainly require some help from Translink.  I’d really like them to have a warm and fuzzy feeling about us when I pitch the changes we’ll be proposing.

You can see where I’m going with this. We’re the mouse sleeping beside the elephant and we don’t get to do favours for the elephant very often. This is one of those rare opportunities when we get to be the kind of people whom others want to be friends with. And the bonus is that all we have to do to earn that respect is to do the right thing.

Just in case you still have to be convinced that spending $125 per year on transit is a good investment let me share some history with you. Between 2001 and when we hosted the Olympics in 2010 there was virtually no increase in the amount of traffic on Metro Vancouver roads. That’s because the growth in public transit exceeded the growth in population. Since the Olympics that has changed; the population is still growing but transit isn’t keeping up and traffic congestion is once again increasing. Without stable ongoing funding for buses and an added Seabus getting on or off of the  North Shore during rush hour is simply going to take longer and longer. Sixty percent of Bowen workers commute to the mainland so we shouldn’t think that congestion on the North Shore wouldn’t ultimately affect our quality of life.

So please do yourself and me a favour, vote “Yes” and get that ballot into the mail.

 – Mayor Murray Skeels

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