Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Who will lead the campaign for more transit funding?

With the upcoming referendum on transit funding (in theory) set to occur before June 30, 2015, things are starting to heat up in the campaign to have voters approve a ballot question which will seek more funding to maintain and improve transit in our region.

The first hurtle that must be crossed is actually coming up with a ballot question for the upcoming referendum. Elections BC needs to know the ballot question by mid-December. This means that both Metro Vancouver mayors and the province have only a few more weeks to agree on the ballot question and potential new funding source for transit. The next Mayors’ Council meeting is on December 11th.

Ballot measures asking to increase taxes to fund transit have succeeded in the US when government, business, and labour come together. In BC, it looks like local government leaders will be supporting more transit funding, but the province has so far tried to distance itself from transit in Metro Vancouver.

Since the province forced a referendum on transit in our region, it is a real shame that they are abdicating responsibility to either fund, or advocate for more transit funding. It is really interesting that both former BC Liberal Transportation Minsters Kevin Falcon and Blair Lekstrom do not support a referendum on transit funding.

According to Lekstrom, “Governing by referendum I think is always a difficult position. I'm a believer if you cast your ballot for someone, whether it's for a three or four year term, I'm giving them the ability to make decisions on my behalf and I'll judge their results later. I'm not a huge supporter of governing by referendum.”

While the provincial government is currently non-committal in its support of transit in Metro Vancouver, proponent groups are starting to come together.

The first organization is Moving in a Livable Region. This group is aiming to provide fact-based information about the importance of funding transit in Metro Vancouver. It is a coalition of business, labour, advocacy organizations, and SFU.

Another organization, the Metro Vancouver Alliance, is comprised of 51 faith groups, organized labour, and community groups. It is supported by the BCTF, Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, IBEW, and Vancity. According to the Alliance they “consider the current regional transit issues as one of the most important topics of concern.” They are calling on all their members to “support the referendum and to rally the people with in each group to then carry that message forward to the communities to seek their support for a successful referendum.”

There are other groups that are supporting a successful referendum outcome to increase transit funding.

My main concern is that there is no leader or group that people can stand behind to support transit. A strong organization to ensure that all the proponents of the upcoming transit referendum are working together will be key for a successful outcome of the referendum.

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