The appointment of Jim Pattison to head up a committee that will oversee any tax dollars collected for transportation under the Mayors' Plan is one of the few moves the 'Yes' campaign has made that really makes sense.
It removes a key concern that many people have — they simply do not trust TransLink with additional tax dollars. It is also a tacit acknowledgement by the 'Yes' side that TransLink is an issue in the campaign for an additional 0.5 per cent sales tax increase to fund the ambitious plan. While the word TransLink may not be on the ballot, it looms over the entire campaign.
I've been quite surprised at the 'Yes' campaign thus far. It has, in my view, been unnecessarily alarmist. Mayors have said (I'm paraphrasing here) "there is no Plan B." They say "there won't be another chance to go ahead with these improvements." They have even made the almost unbelievable claim that a study shows people will have more money in their pockets after the tax increase goes through, and some of the improvements have been made.
'No' campaigner Jordan Bateman has a great response to that last claim. He said that, using that logic, we should all be taxed 100 per cent so we would have far more money to spend.
Another problem the 'Yes' campaign has is a lack of credible spokesmen. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, head of the Mayors Council, may be a fine choice to campaign for the added sales tax in Vancouver, even through he was under a lot of fire in last November's election and is widely distrusted by many in the city. However, he's a terrible spokesman for the plan south of the Fraser, where people resent his earnest Vancouver-centredness and his pie-in-the-sky idealism.
The 'Yes' campaign also has, thus far, not give people leaning their way a strong "feeling" about why they should vote their way. The campaign has not appealed to emotions, while the 'No' forces have the powerful image of TransLink to brandish. It immediately prompts a visceral reaction.
One of the few steps on the emotional level from the 'Yes' forces came with the release of a well-produced video featuring Gordon Price, former Vancouver councillor, head of the Simon Fraser University City Program, and an articulate, intelligent and visionary advocate for better cities.
The video is well worth a look. It can be found at http://www.ourstoryourfuture.com.
Despite some steps in the right direction, the 'Yes' forces have an uphill battle convincing people south of the Fraser that paying additional tax will really benefit them. As Bateman has pointed out, almost one-third of the amount to be raised goes towards the Broadway subway in Vancouver — a city already very well-served by transit. Meanwhile, improvements in Langley are, for the most part, a long ways off.
The LRT lines in Surrey, one of which will extend to Langley City in 12 years (if all goes well), will make a significant difference here — but when there is so little transit here now, and so few people actually use it, it's hard to get passionate about proposed improvements.