Metro Vancouver Transit Referendum

Despite myself, I have fallen into the debate around the Metro Vancouver Transportation and Transit referendum that is now underway.

The question is: whether to approve a 0.5% tax for transportation and transit infrastructure:  new routes, substantially increased service, and to accomodate a projected influx of a million more people into the region?

The “No” argument seems seems to be all over the map about:  dissatisfaction with Translink;  mistrusting Translink;  mistrusting government in general;  no cap on the tax;  no sunset for it; or the cities should amalgamate, and such.  None of which, really, bears on the question at hand.

Regarding trust:  bear in mind that the province didn’t have to have referendum on this.  It could have simply raised the PST half a point, as it has indeed raised and lowered it before — a throw-away item in the budget to spur a brief flurry of complaint, and then… all done.  It seems to me, therefore, that the referendum is itself an act of good faith, which I see no reason to take at anything but face value — not to mention that having chosen this route, it now would be suicidal to go against whatever outcome ensues.

It is also NOT an open-ended approval.  A “Yes” vote specifically approves a single 0.5% tax;  no more, no less.

Whether it changes, and how long it endures is up to future legislatures, which we ourselves can influence in future elections.

Even if the legislature had indeed proposed a sunset date, it would have in no way bound future legislatures not to change or remove it.  A given legislature cannot, in fact, bind future legislatures.  This, too, is a complaint without merit.

The dissent also seems to dwell on Translink’s alleged waste and inefficiency, as if a “No” vote will somehow fix this — by punishing them, perhaps, or forcing them to be less wasteful.

Organizations, however, do not have feelings;  they feel no pain and cannot be punished, and shorting the funding of government-related organizations rarely brings efficiency, just cutbacks.  We need more and better service and more and better infrastructure, not less.

Yet, while there have been a number of high-profile bad decisions, the data are in, on the whole, and on the whole the system runs well and efficiently within the practical constraints of its budget, and there are many reputable independent sources that confirm this.

But it is not, in any case, Translink’s tax, it is not they that asked for it, and it is not they that will benefit from it.  This is not a referendum about Translink, at all, nor about amalgamating the cities to achieve some putative economies of scale — though from the transit perspective Translink is already such an amalgamation.

No, this referendum is about none of these things.  It’s about funding a better regional public transportation system: one that is fast and efficient, and responsive to our needs, a system that will make it easier for us to leave our cars at home more often and take transit, and with less distress to the environment.

The alternative is on-going patchwork development by the many separate local governments for roads, bridges, and parking, at a much higher but less effective tax burden.

A long list of independent voices, speaking for business, the environment, the disadvantaged, the elderly, and so on across the whole spectrum of society, all recommend this tax as the best way forward.

I agree.  I urge you to join me in voting “Yes” on this important question.

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