In a complete about-turn, the BC Liberals have announced that they will no longer require a another public vote on further public transit investments in Metro Vancouver.
Sam Sullivan, the newly appointed Minister responsible for TransLink and the re-elected MLA for Vancouver-False Creek, said today the new government will move swiftly to eliminate its long-held stance of requiring a vote on any transit funding, assuming it will survive a confidence vote on June 22 when the legislature reconvenes.
He will also work towards creating an “urban agenda” and repairing the broken relationship the BC Liberals have had with TransLink’s Mayors’ Council.
The former Vancouver Mayor, known for his transit-friendly policies on the civic level, replaces former cabinet minister Peter Fassbender who was ousted from his seat in the Surrey-Fleetwood riding in last month’s election.
In 2015, the BC Liberals mandated a transit plebiscite on a new 0.5% regional sales tax to help support the cost of transit projects, but the vote failed with 62% of voters saying ‘No’ to the proposal.
Throughout the election campaign, Premier Christy Clark said another vote would be required for any new TransLink revenue source, putting multi-billion dollar transit plans proposed by the region’s mayors at risk. The BC NDP and BC Greens criticized the referendum policy and vowed to discontinue it, and instead work with the region’s mayors on their transit priorities.
All three provincial parties have promised to match the federal government’s transit funding by contributing $2.2 billion towards the Millennium Line extension under Broadway and the new Surrey light rail transit network, but questions linger over how TransLink and local governments will fulfill their minority share of about 20%. Proposals have so far included mobility pricing and a vehicle levy.
In an interview with Daily Hive during the election campaign, Clark contended that her transit referendum policy was based on her perceived need to give the public the ability to decide on the plans made by the unelected TransLink board.
“I don’t support this view that an unelected board at TransLink should have the right to raise peoples taxes without their permission,” she said. “The referendum isn’t about whether or not we can build more transit, it’s whether or not the unelected people at TransLink get to raise everybody’s taxes so that they can build transit.”
As it stands right now, the BC Liberals have 43 seats, the BC NDP 41, and the BC Greens 3, no one has a majority, and the BC legislature is hung.
The BC Greens negotiated with both the BC Liberals and the BC NDP to establish whether they could work with a party to support a minority government.
Ultimately, BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver announced they had agreed to support a BC NDP minority government with BC NDP leader John Horgan.