British Columbia

Carbon tax should fund TransLink: Metro Vancouver mayors

Metro Vancouver mayors have passed a resolution calling on the next provincial government to use the controversial carbon tax to make up for a massive shortfall in transit funding.
B.C.'s carbon tax, which took effect July 1, adds almost 2.5 cents to the price of a litre of fuel. ((CBC))

Metro Vancouver mayors have passed a resolution calling on the next provincial government to use the controversial carbon tax to make up for a massive shortfall in transit funding.

The 21 mayors voted unanimously in favour of the motion at the regional district meeting on Wednesday morning. The resolution called on the province to direct revenue generated by the carbon tax in areas served by TransLink into the regional transit authority's own operating budget.

TransLink needs an extra $150 million a year by 2011 to maintain current service levels and another $300 million to meet its expansion goals, officials have said. The regional organization was created by the provincial government to build and maintain transit services in Metro Vancouver, including roads, bridges, buses and transit lines.

But the mayors have long argued the province has stuck them unfairly with the task of coming up with the funding for TransLink. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said municipal taxpayers are "maxed out," and the mayors don't want to raise property taxes again to pay for the shortfall.

Robertson said he voted against the carbon tax when he was an NDP MLA because it wasn't structured properly, but the mayors' proposal is one way to make it more effective.

"I think this is a step here where we actually connect it to something that reduces emissions and makes a real difference on climate change. In particular, I think this is a way of making this tax useful and functional and making a difference," said Robertson.

Carbon tax an election issue

The controversial carbon tax, which was introduced to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, has become a key issue in the upcoming May 12 provincial election, and it does not appear likely that either of the front-running candidates for premier will support the mayors' motion.

B.C. Liberal leader Gordon Campbell, who first brought in the controversial tax last year, told reporters the money raised by the tax was already being used to cut personal and business income taxes, and there was no money for TransLink.

B.C. NDP Leader Carole James has opposed the carbon tax since it was first introduced by Campbell and has made that opposition a central platform of her election campaign. Her party has since been renounced by several prominent environmentalists for taking that stand.

The mayors also called on the federal government to increase funding for TransLink, through another carbon tax or a tariff on container traffic through Vancouver's port.

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