I’m starting to understand why Metro Vancouver mayors keep asking for more and more taxes to pay for TransLink, and why politicians at all levels keep boosting taxes and fees.
It’s simple — they aren’t feeling the pinch like most others are. In Langley Township for example, the mayor just got a 12 per cent raise, based on an outdated formula which awards pay increases based on what happens in six other municipalities.
Langley City councillors just got a 4.5 per cent wage raise. And most public employees, even if their wages have been held in check in recent years, have pension plans and benefits that others can only dream of.
Provincial and federal politicians have generous pay, free travel, pension plans and all kinds of staff to help them out.
Just last week, mayors agreed to ask the province for permission for a vehicle tax, a TransLink carbon tax and possible road tolling across the region. This request comes less than two weeks before TransLink’s gas tax will increase by two cents a litre. This is as gas prices sit at $1.44 a litre.
These are just slightly lower than the record gas prices we experienced in the summer of 2008, just before a financial meltdown almost took the world into another Great Depression.
Now employees of Coast Mountain Bus Company want a wage increase in their next contract. Keep in mind that wages paid to drivers are a major part of TransLink’s overall budget, only part of which is covered by transit fares.
Driving a bus isn’t the easiest job in the world. TransLink insists that drivers let anyone on, whether they pay their fare or not. When drivers do try and ask for a minimal respect for other bus riders, they are often threatened and in some cases brutally assaulted. Meanwhile, the TransLink police force doesn’t even ride buses to try and at least show some presence.
Despite all that, bus drivers are very well-paid. Currently, the starting wage for driving a full-size bus is $20.44 per hour, and that rises to $29.20 per hour after two years on the job. Community shuttle bus drivers start at $17.57 per hour and their wages jump to $23.36 after two years on the job.
Who will be tapped to pay for any wage increases that drivers get? Not just bus riders, but all of us who fund TransLink through gas tax, tolls, property tax, parking tax, Hydro bill levies and (in the future), many other taxes and fees.
When will this assault on the wallets of ordinary people stop? We get no help on the tax reduction front from elected leaders — they are on the gravy train. The same goes for all their top advisors, who get automatic wage raises whenever unionized staff get a boost.
These people need to realize that the average person working in the private sector, whether employee or business owner, isn’t making any more than they were four years ago. The same goes for retired people.
As we won’t get any help from politicians, maybe citizens need to mount an organized and focused tax revolt, much as happened over the HST.
I don’t know how best it can take shape, but I am quite certain that some type of massive grassroots campaign is the only way to get free-spending politicians to slow down their assault on our wallets, if only just a little.