The mayor of West Vancouver has come out swinging against the proposed transit tax for Metro Vancouver, saying government does not have the right to ask citizens to pay more in taxes unless it can assure them that their money will be well spent.
In an statement released this week, Mayor Michael Smith writes TransLink does not have the reputation of being a well-managed corporation delivering excellent value.
"This cannot be blamed entirely on management, although it is entirely reasonable to question the number of well-paid executives that run what is essentially a monopoly organization."
"As an example, in West Vancouver, the average homeowner pays over $800 in property taxes directly to TransLink, plus 17 cents per litre in direct gas tax," wrote Smith in his letter.
"Our community has successfully run buses for 102 years and could provide them now entirely free to our citizens if we had that revenue."
TransLink does fund more than public transit though, including the maintenance of many of the regional bridges and roads, and the transit police force.
But Smith also questions why the transit system needs its own expensive police force.
"In West Vancouver, our local police department will obviously attend to issues on our buses. We will not rely on TransLink police to come across the bridge."
Will the projects go ahead?
Smith also questions whether a yes vote in the upcoming referendum will actually mean the proposed projects go ahead.
"Unfortunately voting yes does not guarantee that everything in the plan will happen. The major projects will require provincial and federal funding which has not been confirmed and the region will need to find additional revenues to see the mayors’ plan completed."
Smith also takes issue with the structure of TransLink, saying putting the ultimate decision making power in the hands of the provincial government, rather than local mayors, does not make sense.
"I think it is entirely relevant and fair to say that the mayors collectively have far more business and management experience than the MLA’s from Kamloops and Kelowna, who now have the ultimate decision making power," he wrote, referring to Transportation Minister Todd Stone and Premier Christy Clark.
Ballots arrive in March
In March British Columbians will get ballots in the mail for the Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax plebiscite, asking if they support a 0.5 per cent regional sales tax to fund a list of Lower Mainland transit projects.
Some of those projects include a new subway line along Broadway in Vancouver, a light rail line in Surrey, a new Pattullo Bridge and and increased service on SkyTrain, Canada Line, SeaBus, and West Coast Express.
Other mayors that have spoken out against the funding proposal include Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan and Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read.
Most of the region's other mayors are in favour of a yes vote.