Three months after a plebiscite was approved for a new transit tax for Metro Vancouver, residents will finally get their ballots so they can begin voting Yes or No this week.
The mail-in ballots are set to begin arriving in mailboxes with the question: "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."
A majority of 50 per cent plus one will be considered support for the question.
Metro Vancouver 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.
Meanwhile the Mayors' Council campaign to get the plan approved has been dogged by a committed effort from naysayers like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. It argues many families can't afford the tax and that TransLink is a wasteful organization that will squander the revenue.
During the campaign, TransLink replaced CEO Ian Jarvis, saying it needed to boost public confidence in the organization. But when it was revealed Jarvis will still be paid nearly half a million dollars a year until his contract expires next year, TransLink came under fire once again.
Despite at least one survey indicating that the No side had an edge in February, the Yes side has continued to gain endorsements from groups such as police services, think-tanks, and alliances of people with disabilities.
And as ballots start arriving in mailboxes this week, the campaigning is expected to continue.
The B.C. Federation of Labour is planning a Yes vote blitz this morning at the Commercial and Broadway Skytrain Station.
"It is really important that people understand what the plan offers and how it will meet the needs of our growing region," said Aaron Ekman, secretary-treasurer of the B.C. Federation of Labour in a statement.
Seven mayors, including Mayors' Council Chair Gregor Robertson, will also be kicking-off the voting period by holding a media event together at Douglas College in New Westminster,
Elections B.C. is administering the vote, which includes 23 different municipalities.
To be eligible, voters must be:
- A Canadian citizen.
- 18 years of age or older, on or before May 29, 2015.
- Registered to vote in B.C.
- A resident of B.C. for at least six months, on or before May 29, 2015.
- Living in Metro Vancouver. (No time requirement for how long.)
Key transit plebiscite dates:
- March 16 - 27 — Voting packages mailed to registered voters
- March 16 - May 15 — Voters may ask for voting package
- April 13 — Plebiscite Service Offices open
- Midnight, Friday, May 15 — The time to ask for a voting package ends
- 8 p.m. PT, Friday, May 29 — Close of voting and close of Plebiscite Service Offices
- Elections B.C. will report interim ballot returns on a weekly basis staring Apr. 1.
- Final results are expected to take several weeks.
A previous version of this story had incorrect information about residency requirements for eligible voters. In fact to be eligible, voters must be a residents of B.C. for six months on or before May 29, 2015. They also must be living in Metro Vancouver, but there is no time requirement for how long a voter has been or is living in Metro Vancouver.Mar 16, 2015 8:58 AM PT