B.C. economy can’t afford more of the premier’s stalling on transit referendum

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VANCOUVER – George Heyman, New Democrat spokesperson on TransLink, issued the following statement in light of the referendum question announced by Metro Vancouver mayors:

“The Mayors’ Council put forward a strong referendum question that proposes a regional sales tax increase of 0.5 per cent to fund needed investment in our transit system. Now, it needs the approval of the B.C. Liberal cabinet. When the transportation minister brings this question to the premier and cabinet, he must press them to approve it. Rejecting the question at this point would put up yet more roadblocks in the way of transit improvements.

“For four years, since signing a memorandum to work with mayors on funding, the B.C. Liberals have done nothing to address the need for transit investment in Metro Vancouver – other than holding up funding with an unnecessary referendum.

“Starting today, they need to campaign tirelessly alongside the mayors to get a yes vote passed. That’s what my colleagues and I will be doing, and it’s what people in Metro Vancouver deserve. We need to do everything we can, starting today, to make sure we achieve a yes vote in the spring.

“Boards of trade in our region are already committed to campaigning for a yes vote because they know road congestion costs us more than idle time in cars and waiting for buses. It’s costing B.C.’s economy billions. Because of the premier’s failure to act, our per-capita transit service has been declining for five years. Due to no funding prospects TransLink cancelled a planned annual bus increase of 306,000 hours, and every day, as our population expands, we fall further behind.

“People know you just can’t take Christy Clark at her word. She talks about supporting families and the economy, but her referendum could leave drivers, transit users and our economy stuck in gridlock for years to come. If this referendum fails, the detrimental and long-lasting effects on people in this region, and on the province’s economy, will be the responsibility of the B.C. Liberals.”