Referendum should not decide Vancouver transit plan, critics say

Residents of Metro Vancouver are voting in a referendum about a major new transportation initiative. But the biggest question in some people's minds isn't the one on the ballot — but whether a referendum is the way to make this kind of decision.
Residents of Metro Vancouver will decide on whether to agree to an increase in sales tax in exchange for some major public transportation projects. (CBC)

Residents of Metro Vancouver are voting in a referendum about a major new transportation initiative. But the biggest question in some people's minds isn't the one on the ballot — but whether a referendum is the way to make this kind of decision. 

It's a hot topic in B.C. this week, as ballots began arriving in mailboxes. A sales tax increase of 0.5 per cent would generate an estimated annual revenue of $250-million.

That money would be used to fund part of an $8-billion, 10-year transit plan, that would see existing bus and SkyTrain services expanded, and new lines built. A new bridge and better cycling routes are also part of the plan. 

But there are those questioning whether a plebiscite is really the best way to approach a major decision on transportation funding. 

To discuss, we were joined by:

Jordan Bateman is B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.  He's involved in the campaign against the new transit tax.  

Anthony Perl is a professor of urban studies and political science at Simon Fraser University. 

Jason Jordan is Executive Director of the Center for Transportation Excellence, which is an industry-funded group that supports Yes campaigns in American transportation referendums.

Premier Christy Clark and the Transportation Minister were both unavailable to speak with us today.

What do you think?  Is a referendum a good way to decide on major funding decisions? 

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This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath.