The B.C. government has given a green light to the Metro Vancouver transit tax referendum, but only after renaming the proposed sales tax.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the revised question will describe the new tax as a Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax, rather than as a regional Provincial Sales Tax.

"Do you support a new 0.5% Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax, to be dedicated to the Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan? Yes or No," the question now reads.

The original question proposed by the mayors of Metro Vancouver was, "Do you support a one half percentage point increase to the Provincial Sales Tax in Metro Vancouver dedicated to the Mayors' Transportation and Transit plan, with independent audits and public reporting? Yes or No."

The plebiscite will be conducted by Elections B.C. by mail-in ballot using provincial funds, but no provincial funding will be provided to campaigns on either side of the vote.

Ballots will be sent out March 16, and votes must be in by May 29, 2015.

A simple majority of 50 per cent plus one will be considered support for the question.

The new tax would apply to the majority of goods and services sold or delivered in the Metro Vancouver region, said Stone. He did not specify which goods would be exempt.

Mayors' 10-year plan

The mayors have said the estimated annual revenue of $250 million would be used to fund part of a $8 billion 10-year transit plan including the following projects.

  • Add bus service and new B-Line rapid bus routes.
  • Increase service on SkyTrain, Canada Line, SeaBus, and West Coast Express.
  • Maintain and upgrade the region’s major roads.
  • Build a new Pattullo Bridge.
  • Build rapid transit connecting Surrey Centre with Guildford, Newton,and Langley.
  • Build rapid transit along Broadway in Vancouver.
  • Extend the region’s cycling and pedestrian walkway networks.

The revenue will be subject to annual reviews, auditing and public reporting.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he was pleased.

"With one million more people moving to Metro Vancouver in the coming decades, we absolutely need to invest in transit," he said in a statement.

"The alternative is crippling traffic congestion, more air pollution, cuts to transit and lost economic opportunity. The future of our region's economy and environment is at stake in this transit referendum."

VOTE | Do you support a 0.5% increase to the provincial sales tax to fund transit in Metro Vancouver?