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The referendum voting hasn’t even started, but the outcome at the moment doesn’t look good.  How did we get to this point – and what was the point of the referendum in the first place?  It’s not too soon to begin the analysis, since whoever gets to define the meaning of the outcome will help determine whatever action can follow.

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Doug Ward in The Tyee:

What Drives TransLink’s Biggest Hater?

Insights into Jordan Bateman, the meme maker opposed to the transit tax hike.

Gordon Price, director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University, calls Bateman’s strategy “The Great Dupe” — persuading people that a negative vote in the upcoming plebiscite would be a “message” to TransLink rather than a rejection of needed transit expansion.

“It’s the brilliance of Bateman’s meme,” said Price. “How do you get people, even a bus rider, to vote against their best interests?” ….

Price said Bateman’s strategy has been to smear TransLink in order to defeat any proposed tax hikes to fund transit. The CTF spokesman launched a “steady beat of criticism, amplified for and by the media” over a range of TransLink controversies, said Price, including executive pay, free coffee, public art, fare evasion, the troubled Compass Card program and policing costs. …

For his part, Bateman happily trots out the epithet “elitist” to describe Yes supporters such as Price and Toderian. In the CTF’s world, taxpayers know best how to spend their own dollars. It’s a tactic used by Bateman’s right-wing counterparts in the U.S., who constantly accuse Democrats of being “elitists” who think they know better than average people. The irony is that the anti-tax policies of Bateman’s CTF and the Republicans serve to entrench social inequality. …

(Greg) Moore (chair of the Metro Vancouver board and mayor of Port Coquitlam) has little respect for what he calls the “destructive” approach taken by Bateman since he joined the CTF.

“His only objective is to get to No regardless of the effects it will have on this region. And I think that is a dangerous argument,” said Moore. “But that is the Canadian Taxpayers Federation mantra on everything. All levels of government should be able to fund a whole bunch of stuff with existing tax revenues…. But they never come forward with solutions. Just: ‘No.'”

This is correct in essence, but not totally accurate. Broadly speaking, the CTF regularly argues that governments of all levels, but especially municipal ones, can save money by slashing public sector wages and pension plans. The group has also put forward an alternate plan to finance the proposed 10-year transit vision. The problem is not a single mayor in the region thinks it could work. …

When SFU’S Price heard about Clark’s referendum plan, his first reaction was “this sucker is going down. It’s a referendum, it was meant for that purpose. But even then I underestimated how bad it would be. If there is a No vote, this is discrediting the leadership class of the entire region. Who fills that void?

“Jordan Bateman?”

My sense is that the leadership of this region still doesn’t get that they are fighting a battle (albeit half-heartedly) that isn’t even in the same war as the one that Bateman, the CTF and the other apparatus of conservative economics are winning.

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Further comment in the last few days:

Peter Ladner in Business in Vancouver:

Some people are calling this The Great Dupe, where large numbers of people have been stirred into fear and anger by someone in Langley who never uses transit (because “service is so poor around town that it’s virtually unusable”) and who has teamed up with a former campaigner for the oil industry to conclude that saving $0.35 a day per household – and by default promoting cars, costly new highways, congestion, air pollution and social isolation – is in the interests of “everyday people.”

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Eric Doherty in Rabble:

If the Yes side goes down to defeat in Metro Vancouver, and progressive forces run away with their tails between their legs, imposing designed-to-fail transit referendums could become a favoured tactic of right wing governments across Canada.

On the other hand, if the transit referendum results in an effective movement for better transit right wing governments will see the danger of providing such organizing opportunities. A Yes vote and a strong and ongoing pro-transit movement in Metro Vancouver would probably make this made-to-fail referendum the last of its kind.

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Drew in Convenient Truth:

… this referendum is horribly unnecessary. The people of Metro Vancouver have already spoken and said what they wanted for a regional transportation network and how they were prepared to pay for it…. You can read about it on the TransLink website or, if you don’t feel like reading the whole report, check out the column Gary Mason wrote in the Globe and Mail when talk of a referendum was bubbling up in 2013.

Another canard gets shot out of the sky — the one about TransLink’s “wish list”, it’s actually the people’s wish list, and we need to remember that.

More importantly, we need to think of traffic congestion, crowded buses and trains, at least one bridge that will no longer be safe to use, pollution (much of which gets blown into the Fraser Valley, affecting the health of the people there, not to mention much of our food supply).

Those are the real stakes. You have to wonder why anyone would try to divert people’s attention from that.