(Peter) Fassbender, through the media, and without the mayors’ prior knowledge, announced the provincial government’s “commitment” to fund $246 million worth of improvements to TransLink over the next three years. All the mayors would have to do to fund their share of the plan, Fassbender said, would be to raise property taxes — a suggestion they had previously refused to consider — and levy development cost charges on developers who benefitted from increased density around transit stations.
The timing of the announcement, the apparent generosity of the $246-million commitment and the fact that a provincial government minister was making the announcement by himself while the mayors were nowhere in sight seemed designed to suggest that the provincial government was being proactive on transit while the mayors were being obstructive and uncooperative.
What the public didn’t know was that it was the mayors who originally suggested raising property taxes, and that it was they who suggested it to Fassbender. After last year’s disastrous referendum, which saw the mayors’ $7.5-billion, 10-year transit plan rejected by the public in an overwhelming No vote, a select group from the mayors’ council held a series of private meetings with the provincial government in hopes of salvaging something from the wreckage. Their suggestion to raise property taxes, which they had been previously refused to do, was a concession to the province to break the policy impasse. Several mayors I talked to felt Fassbender saw the opportunity to play politics, instead.
“This,” wrote Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore in an email to me, “was a betrayal of the Mayors’ Council.”