With fewer than 500 days to put it together, is it even possible for all parties to agree on a transit referendum in Metro Vancouver?
One transportation expert is very skeptical.
Even crafting the agreement is going to be a challenge, according to SFU City Program Director Gord Price. He doesn’t think it has been properly-thought through.
“Can you agree on the wording? Can you mount a campaign? Can you overcome any opposition there may be on the united front especially when the province isn’t likely to be a part of it? Is there any realistic chance of it passing?” he wonders
He figures even putting the question out is going to take a lot of time. “I think the real question is ‘Should we even try?’ Is this any exercise where there is enough possibility of winning that it is worth everybody now focusing on this intensely for the next year?”
When it comes to the campaign, he says “You’ve got to also somehow find money, and large amounts of it, because it will have to be a major media campaign to convince the public that all these things we say we want… we are prepared to pay for it when the bill is going to be in the multi-billions of dollars.”
Metro Vancouver mayors unanimously voted against a referendum last month, saying it would divide the region.
The council is also pressing the new transportation minister to abandon the promise, but there are so far no plans to do so.
I discussed the referendum with a councillor from one of the northeast municipalities who, despite his enthusiasm for transit, doubts a referendum would win. He’s doubtful that there will be much in it for those beyond the Evergreen Line. Indeed, if there was a strong challenge from anti-tax candidates, he might be, by the time of the municipal election, at best neutral and at worst forced to oppose it.
There’s also an interview with the new Transportation Minister Todd Stone in the Sun today. (I had forgotten that he was an assistant to Premier Gordon Campbell; he is certainly that style of leader – and was probably influenced by Campbell in the same way that Campbell was influenced by Mayor Art Phillips when he was his assistant.)
Astonishingly, other than a question regarding tolling policy, there is no reference to the referendum. Yet this will be a huge test for Stone’s abilities. Can he find a way through the tangle that the Premier has created with a requirement for a vote on any new funding source for TransLink with a ‘none-of-the-above’ option?
[As of July 8, there are 495 days left – if the referendum is held on municipal election day.]