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Referendum Pothole: Double-Billing

December 2, 2013

Here’s how it works if you live in Metro Vancouver.

The provincial government thinks you should have a vote on whether and how you want to pay for transit.  It does not think you should have a vote on major highway infrastructure, like the Massey Bridge.

So if you vote yes on the transit referendum, that means you will get a tax bill (one way or the other) for (1) transit, and (2) highway infrastructure.  You’ll pay for both buses and bridges.  And, since you are also a provincial taxpayer, those bridges could be anywhere in the province.

If, however, you live outside Metro, you get one bill.  Fortunately, since about half the provincial taxpayers live in Metro, it is considerably less than it would be if you were paying only for what gets built in your part of the province.

One imagines the Premier thought it would be appealing to assure non-Metro taxpayers that they weren’t paying for goodies going to the city slickers.  If Vancouver wants a subway, Vancouver will have to pay for a subway.  (Though in the end, the Province would be expected to contribute.)

Here’s the irony: if regional taxpayers vote no on the referendum, it may well be because they realize they are being double billed.  And if they say no to more transit-related taxes, the Province, in the end, will have to use provincial dollars to pay for whatever major transit expansion occurs – unless it’s really prepared to say that nope, that’s it, no more transit unless you pass another referendum sometime in the unforeseeable future.

And then it will have done what the Opposition can only dream of: it will have created a sense of unfairness - and a political movement – that will unite all of Metro Vancouver.

That’s a pretty steep price to pay for a political maneuver.  A double bill, if you will.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 4, 2013 11:12 pm

    The Premier may have planned the referendum as an appeal to non-Metro voters – let the urbanites pay for their subways. However, she didn’t tell them that they are already paying for Metro’s rapid transit. The Province (i.e. all BC taxpayers) contributes approximately $20 million per year to fund the Canada Line’s operating costs (TransLink 2012 Annual Report, Pg 82). This works out to about $800 million over the 40-year life of the Canada Line contract; a large number but it pales in comparison to the $14 billion the Province (i.e. all of us) has spent on highway improvements since 2003 (

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