The provincial Liberals have been treating Metro Vancouver like an annoying child for years. Finally, the kid got pissed off and pushed back. The loss of five Ministers from Metro – notably the one responsible for TransLink, Peter Fassbender – has created a new meme.
That headline and analysis may just be the first salvo by Kevin Falcon in a future Liberal leadership race, but it seems to reflect an emerging consensus from the commentariat that the Liberals, minimally, took Metro for granted – and got punished.
During the election, not a lot of attention was paid to the Liberal response to the Mayors’ Council questionnaire to all the parties on their positions with respect to transportation – perhaps because most of the responses were the same with respect to the big-budget transit projects.
But there at the bottom in the middle was the revealing difference: the Liberals would still require a referendum for a new funding source, including any form of mobility pricing or development cost charge to help pay for the regional portion of costs for the next stage of the 10-year plan.
Though it wasn’t widely noted, the mayors were furious. They had tried to play nice, keeping the rhetoric low key to avoid more bad blood. But once it was clear that no matter how much political capital they would have to spend to explore new funding options, regardless of any consensus they might reach, they would be put through the ringer of a referendum, presumably without any backing from the Premier when it really counted.
The kid was being treated with contempt. The Liberals anticipated that no matter how much they disregarded the interests of the majority of the provincial population in the place where the jobs were really being created, they would not have to pay a severe price. They could even afford to lose a seat or two.
Not the way it turned out. If Sam Sullivan had failed to pick up a few hundred votes in Vancouver False Creek – the place where affordable housing and transit issues are most critical – they’d be in even worse shape. (Speaking of which, can anyone remember anything Sullivan has said of importance on these issues? Anyone? Bueller?)
Now the referendum requirement has taken on symbolic as well as real-life importance. Will it remain a requirement if the Liberals end up with a bare-minimum majority? Will the Mayors’ 10-year plan remain in limbo, potentially for years, if it is? Will Clark reverse her position on the referendum even as she literally ploughs ahead with the Massey Bridge?
And what of the other parties? Are they prepared to go to the mat on removing the referendum requirement as the price for doing business? Will the Metro MLAs, particularly the remaining Liberals, take a position? Will the province’s leaders, in other words, show some leadership?
Or do we have to have another election to settle the issue?