Opinion Column

B.C. premier should get rid of referendum and work out a proper transit deal

By Laila Yuile, City Hall

B.C. Premier Christy Clark. (QMI AGENCY PHOTO)

B.C. Premier Christy Clark. (QMI AGENCY PHOTO)


Columnists Laila Yuile and Brent Stafford battle over the issues of the day. The winner of last week’s duel on marijuana laws was Laila with 61%.

This week’s topic:

Should the premier cancel the transit referendum and leave planning and funding to the existing process?

A dream has been repeating itself lately in my mind, one in which politicians sit down and actually engage in productive discussions with each other. A dream in which politicians put good policy and process ahead of unrealistic, vague demands and pointing fingers. A dream in which it’s possible to get from point A to point B without a vehicle.

Then I wake up.

The reality is that while commuting in Vancouver is incredibly easy — in Surrey, Langley and other suburbs taking the bus often isn’t a viable option. In far too many areas, transit is still as much of a dream as the one I’ve been having about politicians working together. As Metro Vancouver grows by leaps and bounds, so do the number of cars on the road because the bedroom communities are vastly underserved by other forms of mass transit.

Read Brent Stafford's column

Vancouver is already served by more than one SkyTrain line and a plethora of bus routes, and yet the city is also lobbying hard for rapid transit out to the University of B.C. along Broadway — a goal at odds with the desperate need for transit south of the Fraser. It’s been clear for a long time that due to the vastly different transit needs of the region’s municipalities, reaching a consensus on funding wouldn’t come easy.

More gas taxes? Higher property taxes? Tolling every bridge in the region? Premier Christy Clark only announced the transit referendum last year before the election in the hopes of appealing to the populist ideal of avoiding higher taxes. Well done! Now we have a forced referendum, with a question that will be designed to deflect any blame from the provincial government onto you, the voter, and the mayors who failed to deliver.

I fully support public input and direction in making policy — it is an essential part of the democratic process. Having a referendum at the same time as an election might even bring out more voters, something many mayors might not want. But the motivation for this costly exercise isn’t about good policy, it’s about political posturing and passing the buck.

Clark needs to do the right thing — cancel this crazy referendum and appoint a negotiator to work out an agreement between the mayors and the province. Then, scrap the current TransLink board and revert back to an elected board that is accountable to the people who pay their salaries. Before the government starts reaching into our pockets, they should be looking in their own.

Laila Yuile is an independent writer, blogger and political commentator. You can read her blog at lailayuile.com.





Who wins this week's duel on cancelling the transit referendum?

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