Metro Vancouver residents have voted against the Mayors’ Council plan to introduce a regional 0.5 per cent transit sales tax to support public transit initiatives.
The ‘No’ campaign prevailed overwhelmingly with 61.68% of the mail-in ballot vote that was held over a 10 week span beginning March 16 and ending May 29.
Voter turnout was 51.09% with 798,262 of 1,562,386 eligible voters returning their ballot to Elections B.C.
For the city that would have benefited most from a ‘Yes’ result, a total of 210,249 City of Vancouver residents participated in the plebiscite, with 50.81 per cent or 106,818 voting against.
In contrast, voter turnout within the November 2014 Vancouver municipal election was 44 per cent or 181,707 ballots.
Just three municipal jurisdictions voted in favour of the proposal: Bowen Island, Belcarra, and Electoral Area A, which comprises of the University of British Columbia. There was no majority support from any major municipality in the region.
“This is democracy. One accepts a Yes or a No,” said Interim TransLink CEO Doug Allen. “The fact that it is a No, it’s not my preference, but that is the will of those who voted and we must respect that.”
“So, TransLink will continue to work day in, day out to deliver the best, the safest, the most reliable and the most efficient system possible. We must recognize, however, that it will not be easy because we will not be able to expand. Our revenue base will be flat or falling and we’ll simply have to do a lot of things better in order to provide the kind of service we’ve provided to date.”
However, it should be noted that the results of the transit plebiscite are not legally binding. Plebiscites gauge the level of public interest on a matter, but unlike referendums the government is not required to take necessary action that changes or implements new legislation and programs in response to the vote’s result.
The Mayors’ Council, TransLink and the provincial government will now spend the next several months to discuss the next steps and understand the message sent by voters.
A ‘Yes’ vote would have provided the Mayors’ Council and TransLink the mandate to move forward with a $7.5 billion transportation plan that includes an underground extension of the SkyTrain Millennium Line along Broadway, a light rail transit network in Surrey, a new seismically safe Pattullo Bridge, improved night bus service, the use of a third SeaBus and a significant increase in bus network frequency, including the introduction of 11 new B-Line rapid bus routes.
New revenues from the tax increase would raise $2.5 billion over 10 years, with the provincial and federal governments contributing the remaining balance.
Infographic of the vote results (click on the image for an enlarged version):