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Opinion: TransLink referendum needs own clarity act

Jordan Bateman - Leader file photo
Jordan Bateman
— image credit: Leader file photo

With the politicians bickering over this fall’s TransLink referendum, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) has released its suggestions for the voting process.

The mayors are desperate to cloud this process and run out the clock. We can’t allow them to push this off to next year, past the election, when they cannot be held personally accountable for the taxes they want to impose. Taxpayers need clarity and a vote this fall.

The CTF plan lays out several key points:

• The mayors, in partnership with the TransLink board of directors, should release a prioritized list of projects, with cost estimates, and their preferred taxation models to pay for it. Much of the background for this work has already occurred.

• The question should link the TransLink plan and tax recommendation (e.g. Do you support the TransLink $23-billion capital plan, including the sales tax, vehicle levy, border tax and road tolls needed to fund it? Yes/No).

• No government funding (provincial, municipal, Metro Vancouver or TransLink) should be given to either side of the referendum campaign.

• The threshold for a yes vote should be 50 per cent plus one overall in the region plus a majority in each of at least two-thirds of the municipalities involved (16 of 23 TransLink voting areas; this is the same threshold as the Recall and Initiative Act).

• TransLink and the provincial government should be neutral during the campaign. Both should be limited in what they can spend and publish during the referendum. All publications should be vetted for fairness and subject to approval by the Auditor General – Local Government.

• The referendum should be held at the same time as the municipal elections, with the province covering costs related to the vote, and Elections BC overseeing the process in partnership with local government officials.

The politicians are over-complicating this process because it serves their political purposes. This isn’t peace in the Middle East. It’s not nuclear fusion. This is a simple vote asking taxpayers if they want to pay more – and how – for specific services from TransLink. The sooner we get some clarity, the better the decision voters can make.

Jordan Bateman is the B.C. Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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