Today, I offer 13 reasons why the proposed November 2014 referendum on new funding for TransLink is a devastatingly bad idea.
1. Because it will become a surrogate vote on hating taxes and so will likely lose.
2. Because people who don’t like TransLink will vote against it even though the TransLink they hate might no longer exist because its governance will be revamped during the referendum campaign period.
3. Because a referendum is a costly, overly simplistic, inefficient way to make complex public policy decisions. The HST referendum, although different in being provincewide, cost an estimated $9 million to administer, with $250,000 in public money given to each side, with the government spending another $5 million in pro-HST advocacy, and an estimated $10 million to $20 million spent by private HST supporters. The same decision would have taken a few hours in the legislature.
4. Because there is no obvious organization in place on either side currently in a position to get all the issues fully understood by the average voter, especially in such a short time.
5. Because it singles out transit spending for this ham-handed decision-making process. This absurdly positions TransLink’s areas of jurisdiction as less important (i.e., expendable in a risky referendum) than the new Massey Tunnel, airport improvements, highway widening, new hospitals, new hydro sources, new water treatment and sewage treatment plants – all of which require new taxpayer-financed spending without a referendum.
6. Because there was no referendum on tolls on the Port Mann bridge or the Golden Ears bridge, increases to income taxes and corporate taxes, Medical Services premium increases, ferry toll increases, airport improvement fee increases, sewage treatment plant fee increases or Hydro rate increases.
7. Because the elected representatives closest to the people, the mayors, are unanimously opposed to it, don’t have the resources to fight it and don’t have the guts to risk their political futures on taking a stand for the good of the region.
8. Because it will run concurrently with the November 2014 municipal elections, setting up municipal politicians in areas beyond the reach of transit, or already well served by transit, to campaign against it, even though they know good transit is the backbone of the region’s economic, social and environmental health.
9. Because the vote will be biased against people whose lives depend on transit, and who are too busy getting to their multiple jobs, ESL classes or doctors’ clinics to match the political muscle of well-heeled tax-hating car-lovers living out of the reach of proposed transit improvements.
10. Because if it is lost, voters and businesses in the region will be sentenced to a generation of car-dependent sprawl and congestion, tied to vastly more non-referendum public spending on new roads, bridges and tunnels that will never solve congestion.
11. Because the huge hidden health-care costs – from injuries, deaths, asthma, increased obesity, diabetes, heart disease – from a car-dependent lifestyle will not be on the referendum.
12. Because TransLink already has legislated options to raise the necessary money to give residents throughout the region decent transit. The province just has to allow them to be used.
13. Because if it is lost, it will blow up all the transportation and land-use plans that have been carefully put together and agreed upon by every local municipality, Metro Vancouver and TransLink with major public input.
All of those plans advocate a future that depends on investment in alternatives to car dependency.
There is still time to say NO to this referendum. •