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Referendum: MLA Response – Richard Lee

March 25, 2015

MLAs continue to state their positions on the referendum.


Richard Lee, Liberal MLA for Burnaby North


I think the people have enough information to make up their own mind already and have a say. I support public transit and personally will vote YES.

Four Less-Discussed Reasons to Vote “Yes” in the Transit Referendum

March 23, 2015

From Bruce Haden, Architect and Urban Designer


  1. Remember California’s “ Proposition 13”?

The 1978 Howard Jarvis led referendum that capped California’s property taxes was a watershed moment that introduced two profoundly damaging results. The first was the revenue loss that gutted the ability of local governments in California to provide crucial services for the public good such as libraries. I firmly believe this was not simply a terrible result for those that used those services, but cost California dearly in terms of its social cohesion, economic growth and sense of civitas.

The second result of Proposition 13 was to create a broader referendum based ongoing political guerrilla war against virtually any progressive initiatives – although some progressive initiatives benefitted from referenda wins, the overall cost in effective governance was brutal. Proposition 13 started a process that fundamentally changed the basic rules of representative government and resulted in a string of very bad but “voter friendly” initiatives.

I believe the transit referendum could send B.C. down this same terrible path. This is not to say that referendums should never be used, but it was a destructive and anti – urban move by the provincial Liberals to have used this strategy in this case, and it is up to thoughtful citizens to help contain the damage that would be caused to governance in British Columbia by a “No” vote.

Governments are never perfect. Governments handicapped by the simplistic dictates of plebiscite are awful.


  1. Quality transit is a basic component of equity

Most of us worried about the cost of income equality to all of us have also been concerned about the extremely high housing costs in Metro Vancouver that are a huge burden on those without very high incomes. This reduces the quality of life for all of us by limiting the ability of non-wealthy creatives and the providers of basic services to live here. Quality transit helps reduce the overall cost of living for transit users and is a basic component of equity and economic fairness.

A city without a middle class is a city worse for all to live in.


  1. Translink is not perfect – but no organization with such a complex mandate is perfect

I have worked with Translink on several projects. It is full of passionate people who rightly believe the provision of quality transit is a central aspect of the quality of life in Metro Vancouver. Are they perfect? No. Any organization that is so large and has so many responsibilities will ALWAYS have instances of wasted funds that could be used as simplistic one-line targets for opponents. If you work in any business, non-profit or government agency, imagine your organization being under attack for fiscal irresponsibility by opponents seeking to score points. Don’t you think there would be ammunition they could use against your workplace? And the alternative to any visibly wasted dollars is to put in ridiculously restrictive control mechanisms that remove judgement or nuance from decision-making.

This process does not save money, it leads to ponderous internal processes that reduce the quality of decisions and waste way more money – it just wastes that money less visibly.


  1. You have been paying for major transit already – ask yourself if you would want to undo those past decisions?

Your tax dollars have paid for transit for many years. If you could unwind the past would you really want to get rid of the Expo line, or the Millenium line, or the Seabus in order to have a few bucks back in your pocket while you were living in a region that was poorer and less equitable, harder to get around, and more polluted? If you vote “No” you will be making a choice for the future that you probably would never make for the past.

What Price Tags predicted: How the referendum would go

March 21, 2015
Will Dunn reminded me that I had written this 585 days ago:

The Bateman Strategy: Killing TransLink – and the regional vision

AUGUST 29, 2013

Not that I want to publicize Jordan Bateman (the local spokesman for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation) even more, since the media do enough of that already (and let’s face it, I get my fair share of coverage too) – but in the absence of leadership from local leaders, his strategy regarding the transit referendum may well prevail.

And what strategy is that?  Why, getting people to vote against their self-interest in order to effectively disable TransLink – and with it, the regional vision we have pursued for decades with considerable success.

Not, of course, that Metro citizens will intend to vote against more transit or a more sustainable region.  But thanks to Jordan’s strategy, that’s what will happen.

Here’s how the strategy works.

(1) First, discredit government – in this case, TransLink, and the collective goods we pay for with taxes.  Ignore the larger purpose of the organization and concentrate on the ‘bureaucrats’, whom you can dismiss contemptuously.

(2) To do that, use small examples, real or manufactured, to tar the entire organization.  Whether free coffee for staff, bonuses for executives, teething problems for Compass Cards, policing costs (or not enough policing), the installation of fare gates (or not installing fare gates), it doesn’t matter what the examples are – so long as there is a steady beat of criticism, amplified for and by the media.

(3) Maintain that any new programs can be paid for by eliminating ‘waste, fraud and abuse.’  Never give credit for any instances where that actually occurs.  TransLink has already had three performance reviews and an audit, it has already saved millions in ‘efficiencies’ (often a euphemism for cuts) – but never mind.  Always maintain that spending is ‘out of control.’

(4) Establish the bottom line as ‘No More Taxes.’  Do not ever get into a debate about the value and merit of what those taxes purchase.  Simply repeat, and repeat: NMT.

(5) Suggest that voters can ‘send TransLink a message’ by voting for ‘none of the above’ on the transit-funding referendum.  It matters not that eliminating the entire administration of TransLink (about 4 percent of its budget) would barely pay for a few more bus routes, much less a multi-billion-dollar rapid-transit line.  Insist that cutting salaries and perks is a necessary condition (though never sufficient) before discussing new revenues.  At that point, simply assert that we’re taxed out, even if we’re paying less taxes or getting new services.

By aggressively attacking the organization so that those in favour of a new tax will have to defend it before they can argue in favour of its funding, you disarm the proponents before they even begin a ‘yes’ campaign.

Want to see this strategy in action?  Go here for today’s salvo.  (And yes, I’m perfectly aware that this simply gives another opportunity for the CTF to reinforce its messaging.)

Meanwhile, time is running out – 442 days left til Nov 15 (though it’s possible that the referendum might be held in May or June) – and we haven’t even got the wording yet, much less leadership for a yes vote.

One wonders whether the CTF was instrumental in convincing the Premier to go with the referendum idea during the election since it gives them an ideal platform to pursue their agenda.  Better yet, blame for a No vote can be put on local politicians for their inability to convince the electorate.  And the subsequent cutbacks on local transit services as other sources of revenue decline will thereby justify another round of criticism of TransLink.

It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Blogging on Hold. Switching to Instagram

March 20, 2015

I’ll be visiting New York City until March 30.  So there won’t be much in the way of posting on the Price Tags web site.

However, I am going to be taking pics a lot while in NYC, and will then post them on my Instagram account – pricetags – with links to Twitter and Facebook.  So if that’s how you normally access PT, there will be some steady traffic.

See you in back here in April.


And meanwhile, vote Yes.  You know what I mean.

Ohrn Image: Museum View

March 20, 2015

Visited the Museum of Vancouver the other day and spent a few minutes enjoying the foliage and the view.


Ohrn Museum

Carbon Talks: Preparing for Paris – Mar 26

March 19, 2015

From Local to Global Challenges, What Needs to Be Done for a Successful Climate Conference in Paris 2015?


The December 2015 Conference of the Parties (COP21) will be one of the most important international climate conferences ever. The stakes are high: with new evidence that we will surpass the global 2°C temperature increase targets, COP21 represents our best hope for a binding agreement between countries. This Conference could set the conditions for a transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies.


Panelists include:

  • Hon. Mary Polak, B.C. Minister of Environment 
  • Gregor Robertson, Mayor of Vancouver 
  • Nicolas Chapuis, newly appointed Ambassador of France to Canada 

Michael Small, Carbon Talks and Renewable Cities Executive Director will moderate the panel.


 Thursday, March 26

5 pm

Asia-Pacific Hall, Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue – 580 West Hastings Street

Free with registration.

More Astounding Staircases

March 19, 2015

In addition to these ones from a previous post.



In Seoul, South Korea, colorful koi fish are painted in orange, red, and yellow tones that stand out against the very vibrant blue hue of the stairs.


Stair 2
This historic staircase in Sicily, Italy was constructed in 1608 and is made up of many ceramic tiles.  Images are illustrated using thousands of flowers or candles.


Stair 3
These steps in Angers, France were part of an origami street art exhibit.


Chris Keam commented on the previous post as well:  Closer to home, it would be great if the Park Board would bring public stairs to the perpetually muddy slope of China Creek North Park.



Stair 4

China Creek North Park is a well-used park … situated at the corner of East 6th Ave and St. Catharines Street. Many people choose to walk down the grassy slope, as indicated by the well-worn path that traces the most direct route from the street corner to the sidewalk running beside Great Northern Way.

Unfortunately, the existing slope is very slippery and dangerous in the rain as the narrow dirt path turns to mud. Building a safe, permanent stairway will create a safer route for park users and improve access from the Mt. Pleasant neighbourhood to a number of nearby destinations, including:


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