Mayors' Council spent $5.8 million on transit plebiscite 'Yes' campaign

Dec 19 2017, 3:40 pm

The Mayors’ Council has announced that they have spent $5.815 million on the ‘Yes’ campaign for Metro Vancouver’s transit plebisicite.

According to a final report, the campaign was given a budget of up to $6 million to promote and educate the public for an ‘Yes’ result. The funds for the activities were provided by TransLink.

Throughout much of the first half of the year, voters in Metro Vancouver were asked to approve a 0.5 per cent increase in the region’s sales tax to support transit expansion initiatives.

The new tax revenue would help cover the Mayors’ Council’s $7.5 billion, 10-year plan to cover the costs of building the SkyTrain Millennium Line extension under the Broadway Corridor, a light rail transit network in Surrey, and a new seismically-competent Pattullo Bridge. There would also be 11 new B-Line routes, a much higher bus frequency, a third new SeaBus, and increased Night Bus service.

A total of $2.3 million was spent on advertising, including $1.76 million on media buys across all platforms and $543,000 on hiring public relations agency Taxi Canada. Another $2.11 million went towards direct voter outreach, such as door and street canvassing, telephone town-halls, list building and telephone contact, and mail canvasss.

Public engagement, online engagement and outreach to businesses, community groups and NGOs cost $204,000 while research, polling and strategy development were $450,000.

Operational costs for running the entire campaign totalled $414,000. This includes contract staff, running an inbound call centre, legal and administrative fees, and overhead.

Meanwhile, the ‘No’ campaign led by the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation claims it only spent $40,000. The anti-tax campaign, led by Jordan Bateman, even resorted to crowdfunding to hire a plane to fly a banner with a message that read “Vote No To TransLink Tax.”

The final plebiscite turnout result is not known, but two days before polls closed on May 29 Elections B.C.’s final vote-time update indicated that 44.7 per cent or 698,900 ballots were returned. Over 1.56 million residents in the region were eligible to cast a mail-in ballot.

The results of the transit plebiscite will be released in late-June when all ballots are screened for eligibility and counted.