Many solid reasons to vote ‘no’ in transportation referendum

The sales tax could rise without consultation, and there is no 'Plan B.' These are not good reasons to vote 'yes.'

Editor: Many years ago, I wrote an article for the Lower Mainland chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers, noting the advancement which TransLink represented in transportation integration and finance. However, I find myself voting ‘no’ in the current financing referendum. My reasons are as follows.

1. – Future politicians won’t have to ask for voter approval for PST tax increases once the initial 0.5 per cent Provincial Sales Tax levy is in place. The tax rate can creep up to 0.75 per cent, one per cent or 1.5 per cent, without any additional check-in with the electorate. In my view, it will be too tempting for regional politicians to leave the 0.5 per cent tax rate alone. So what are we really voting for?

2. – It is insulting for the electors to be told “there is no Plan B,” and the region will fall apart if taxpayers do not accept this particular tax proposal. There are dozens of ways these funds could be raised, and the PST option was only settled on quite late in the revenue options game undertaken by Metro Vancouver and the Mayors’ Council. Don’t ask people to make a choice, and then try to tell them there is only one choice. Baloney.

3. – Raising revenues directly from users is much preferred to a broad-based consumption tax. It is easier to understand where your tax dollars are going, and provides price signals to discourage over-consumption. The PST tax does not do that.

4. – The link is weak and confusing between the PST revenue source and the project list on which the revenues  might be spent. For example, regional taxpayers are being asked to support the additional cost of putting a subway line underground within Vancouver, while for every other area, a much less expensive above-grade system is provided. Why the special subsidy for Vancouver?

Even more inappropriate, extending a subway line from Cambie to Arbutus in Vancouver adds about a billion dollars to costs, with only a very marginal benefit to overall ridership. As a region, are we being asked to endorse such extravagance? Turn the UBC-bound buses around at Cambie on the civic employee surface parking lot, and save a billion dollars.

You don’t have to dislike TransLink to find good reasons to vote “no” in this referendum.

Richard Cook,