Metro Vancouver mayors have laid out five recommendations for sustainable public transit funding in the region — including a regional sales tax.
The Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation handed the recommendations to Minister Mary Polak, which include a vehicle registration fee that could raise $40 million, a .5 per cent regional sales tax that could raise $250 million, a regional portion of the carbon tax, a share of increased land value along transit corridors and controversial road pricing.
"Somebody needs to get these issues out on the table," said council chair Richard Walton. "Nobody wants to pay anymore for anything. We understand and accept that, but congestion is increasing dramatically."
Walton, who is also the mayor of North Vancouver District, hopes the minister is listening.
"They control the legislation. They have to be at the table. They have to be part of the solution and participate in it," he said.
"I will be quite frank — unless that happens I don’t hold out much optimism for us finding our way through this in the Vancouver region."
'Quick to shoot it down'
The mayors were asked by the province to come up with long- and short-term funding solutions.
"And every time there's been a proposal made the province has been quite quick to shoot it down," said Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie.
"I don't see any reason that they're going to do something else this time, but we were charged with a responsibility to come up with funding sources."
B.C Minister of Transportation Mary Polak welcomes the recommendations but says the plan needs fleshing out.
"It sounds very simple," Polak told Rick Cluff, host of CBC Radio One's The Early Edition. "But when you start to pull at the details, we still need more information."
The Ministry of Transportation says any funding sources need to be affordable, regionally based, have no adverse impact the on economy regionally or provincially, must have public support and must explore revenue gained from development around municipal assets.
"I don't think it has to take a tremendous amount of time, but you have to pay attention to engaging the public on any new taxation ideas," Polak said.
'Abysmal news for taxpayers'
Jordan Bateman with the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation doesn’t like any of the ideas.
"I think it’s absolutely abysmal news for taxpayers," he said. "I think taxpayers are going to be up in arms over this."
Bateman calls the recommendations old ideas that have been rejected before, and says mayors should know better what residents have an appetite for.
"The sales tax grab on the heels of the HST debate — British Columbians made it very clear we do not want to pay more in sales tax, That should be dead on arrival," he said.
"The vehicle levy was defeated by the public in 2000 you can bet that the public will be outraged again."
Walton says the mayors are extremely frustrated and need the provincial government to step up. They hope to hear from the minister in the next week.