Originally published April 8, 2015 written by Bob Andrew
Mayor Skeels recently wrote an article in “The Bulletin”, urging us to vote yes in the transit tax referendum. He says this will make Bowen’s mayor popular, and his logic is that, therefore, Bowen will benefit from other decisions that the region’s mayors will make. While I respect Mr Skeels’ right to his opinion, I find this highly unlikely.
We need some facts here. They are not being provided by the “Yes” campaigners. As a Transportation Economist, I find it most disturbing that we are asked a very skewed question in a ballot that is blatant advertising for the answer preferred by those who will benefit. And I don’t mean you and me. The regional mayors are telling us that we must give them access to unlimited funding (billions of dollars) for an unlimited time period (read “forever”) while they provide us with little but pie in the sky promises. In doing so we would be agreeing to a massive, multi billion dollar spending spree, with extremely limited responsibility, and no repercussions in the event of (foreseeable) failure.
It is stated that an unspecified body will perform an annual audit. Will the purpose be to ascertain that the columns add up, or will it be to ascertain, after the fact, whether the most cost-effective and efficient decisions are being made on our behalf? If we are expecting Translink to suddenly become good stewards of our money, then we are truly naïve. For an informed opinion, please go online and read the article published March 27, 2015, “Why did Doug McCallum vote No?” As a former chair of Translink, and mayor of Surrey for 9 years, his opinion is important. In a nutshell, he says “Translink needs to become more efficient”, that “there are other ways to generate revenue than by always going to the taxpayer”, and that “they have to re-do the whole governance structure”. Specifics in this regard are noted in his article.
Metro Vancouver has a congestion problem – there are many bike lanes, many roads have been narrowed, and many large apartment/commercial buildings are being added in already busy areas. None of these are necessarily bad things, but they have been overdone, and they are the reasons for a large portion of the current problem. Of course it’s more difficult to get around as the roads available are significantly restricted. The City of Vancouver actively encourages developers who want to increase the population density in the city, but has not required that adequate infrastructure is in place. So having been instrumental in creating the problem, the City of Vancouver is clearly expecting the taxpayer to pay for any resolutions to the problem.
You have probably assumed by now that I am very much against handing another 0.5% to any level of government where accountability is a term that they don’t seem to have in their dictionary. Ask yourself, “what is the objective of this tax and why is it necessary?”
We read about additional buses, seabuses, and about the Broadway corridor subway (that goes no where, not even to UBC, but will facilitate massive new apartment construction projects while decimating small businesses), but I understand the first $250 million (!!) has been earmarked to pay for the designing of a system to keep track of vehicles using the municipality. This is ludicrous! Should we need one, such systems are already operating successfully elsewhere, to which we should be looking for information. Re-inventing the wheel is never in our best interests.
Many insightful people have expressed their opinions on the subject, and can be accessed online. Terence Corcoran in a Financial Post article describes the “Yes” campaign as a “marketing scam”. Barbara Yaffe has written several excellent articles in the Vancouver Sun. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation urges us to vote “No”, noting that the “No” campaign has a budget of $40,000, raised from donations while the yes side “is expected to spend as much as $6,000,000 with money coming from Translink, municipalities and taxpayers”. In other words, me and thee.
I urge you to do the research, and vote “No”. There are many better options.
– Bob Andrew