The BC Government has approved the transportation referendum question, which will go before the public in a mail-in ballot later this spring.
Harry Bains, MLA for Surrey Newton and Opposition Critic for Transportation in the last government, claims the referendum idea was a failure of leadership on the part of the premier as there were no similar votes on the South Fraser Perimeter Road, the Port Mann Bridge and the Massey Tunnel Replacement bridge.
“The background goes to when, then Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon fired the mayors and reorganized their responsibilities such that, working with a ‘professional’ board, the mayors role was to approve or rejecting the board’s plans,” said Bains. “They couldn’t even amend the plans. The system was totally flawed, and nothing got done.”
Bains said the opposition NDP urged the government to use part of the carbon tax to improve the transportation infrastructure.
“They chose not to do that,” said Bains. “Instead they created an environment where it was more expensive to drive, but provided no alternative, particularly for the south of Fraser.
Despite the claim by the government that the tax was revenue neutral and therefore there was nothing to divert, Bains claims it was still a government decision they could have taken to create some improvements.
“In 2010 the government signed an agreement, a memorandum of understanding with the Mayors,” said Bains, “that they would work to find a sustainable long term funding formula for TransLink. That didn’t work, so then the premier came along and deflected a chance to take the leadership by putting the TransLink funding question to a referendum. There was no referendum for the Port Mann bridge, the South Fraser Perimeter Road, nor for the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge. They were simply announced. The thing is, the government is elected to show leadership, but has failed time and again when it comes time to deal with public transportation, especially south of the Fraser.”
Because of the referendum, Bains claims any improvements are even further delayed because it will take time to have the vote, and even if passed, it would be another year before decisions are taken, then another four to five years to get the planning done before starting.
“We are looking at another six or seven years before we see any improvement south of the Fraser,” said Bains, “but we can’t afford not to pass the referendum. Failure means it will be another decade before we see any transit improvements, and we can’t afford to let that happen.”