One down, two to go.

Sam Sullivan, newly (if briefly) appointed minister responsible for TransLink, made a breakthough announcement yesterday (reported in the post below):

… his party will no longer require another referendum in order for the region to develop new funding for the transit system.

Price Tags is going to take (a little) credit for this one.  When we started PTERR (the Price Tags Initiative to End the Referendum Requirement), Sam was the first MLA we contacted, hoping he would come on the record with his position.

Though PT has been critical in the past for Sam’s lack of voice on issues critical to his constituency, this time he took up the opportunity.  Indeed, within hours he was on the phone (calling from a SkyTrain car) and, after noting that his position was personal, committed himself to the wording we reported on June 6:

 I would be in favour of removing the referendum requirement if an agreement for funding the Mayor’s plan can be achieved among the three levels of government.

Clearly, Sam would not have made the official and even more unequivocal announcement on behalf of the government unless it had been vetted by the Premier (she who pulled the referendum requirement out of nowhere prior to the 2013 election, applicable only to Metro, only for regional transport).   So this constitutes a significant change of policy – an attempt, no doubt, for the  Liberals to pivot on their approach to Metro Vancouver after being so severely punished by the voters.*

PT sent individual emails to every MLA in Metro requesting their position on the referendum requirement – and so far Sam remains the only one to respond.  But given the rush of events these days, we’re still giving them more time, recognizing that for most they will want an official position from their party before replying.

According to the ‘NW report, “The NDP and Green party said they’d kill the plebiscite requirement.”

Not according to any documentation we’ve seen.  Perhaps it has been stated or implied, but nothing has been sent to us by the NDP or Greens to clarify that stance in writing.

So PTERR will continue pressing forward until, ideally, all three parties agree to remove the referendum requirement from the books.




* Why did the Liberals taken such an obstructionist approach to transit in Metro?  It makes no political sense.

If you want to be the Party of Jobs and Economic Prosperity, then the Broadway and Surrey lines are exactly what you want to put on the hardhat for.  What, after all, are the jobs and investments you want to attract to BC (given that LNG hasn’t exactly panned out)?

Like every other competitive region, you want jobs in tech, research, education, health, corporate services, tourism and culture.  They are literally along Broadway: universities, hospitals, the second largest ‘downtown’ in the province.  At the other end of the rapid-transit line, similar institutions and prospects in Surrey Central.

Given the wealth and jobs generated by real-estate and construction, rapid-transit is a no-brainer.  Given the need to address housing affordability and traffic congestion, again rapid-transit is key.

But no one would have confused the Liberals as being the Party of Yes when it came to transit.  Is it because they saw transit as a social service more than infrastructure investment?  As something that should be funded more locally than provincially? Because they feared being seen as too supportive of the latte-sipping Lower Mainland, or whatever cliche occupies the minds of their up-country voters?  Was it simply because they decided they didn’t really need Vancouver electorally, so screw it?

Up until the election results, they were once again prepared to impose a referendum on the region, even after all the work and political capital that would have to be spent to examine mobility pricing.  After more years of delay, they were prepared to let the whole process be highjacked and turned into another shitshow by whomever could discredit the negotiated compromises and trade-offs, killing any proposal for increased funding with social-media exaggeration and misinformation, adding more years and costs to critical investments that the provincial government would have to fund in any event.

It makes no sense.

But if it hadn’t been for the election outcome in Metro, would it still be BC Liberal policy? And are the NDP and Greens prepared to join in and unanimously kill the referendum requirement once and for all?

We still need to know.