Premier Christy Clark stirred up debate over her government’s promised referendum on Lower Mainland transit financing this week, suggesting voters will have the option of saying no to additional fees and taxes.
In a year-end interview with Black Press, Clark cautioned that Transportation Minister Todd Stone and Metro Vancouver mayors haven’t worked out the referendum question yet. But she has a specific idea of the referendum that she promised repeatedly in the election last spring.
“My expectation is generally that people will be able to choose amongst a number of options, one of which will be status quo,” Clark said. “But it’s not going to be a yes or no option. There will be a number of options, so it will mean that people will need to do a little bit of homework, thinking about what they’d like to pay for and how they’d like to pay for it, or whether or not they’d like to just keep the status quo.”
The NDP opposition jumped on apparent contradictions between Clark’s version of the referendum and those of Stone. Clark has indicated the province will be neutral as taxpayers vote, but Stone has said he will advocate for new financing for roads and transit.
The referendum is contentious with Metro mayors, who face an election next November that may include the referendum. Metro Vancouver residents already pay a transit levy on their BC Hydro bills, extra fuel taxes and tolls on newer bridges, and proposals for car and parking taxes have ended some municipal careers.
NDP TransLink critic George Heyman said it’s clear that even though the Metro Vancouver mayors have not agreed, “the premier has already decided what voters will be choosing from, when they will do it, and how the results will be interpreted.”
Clark said predictions that any new revenue-collecting measures will be rejected are presumptuous.
“I think this argument that if we make the mistake of asking the public, they will inevitably say no, is kind of insulting for people,” Clark said. “I think we should take more opportunities to ask them and consult them.”