Metro Vancouver mayors need to agree on new road, bridge and transit projects so taxpayers know what the price tag will be when they vote in a referendum, Transportation Minister Todd Stone said Thursday.
That referendum will be imposed by legislation the B.C. government will present in the spring session of the legislature, and will be held along with municipal elections in November, Stone told reporters.
The TransLink mayors’ council met Wednesday and rejected Stone’s proposal that they raise more money from property taxes to avoid the referendum that Premier Christy Clark promised in last year’s B.C. election campaign. That promise applies to any new “funding levers” so taxpayers have a say before they are imposed.
Stone said a referendum question can’t be developed until priorities for new projects are identified and a total cost is determined. But the communities haven’t agreed.
“When you talk to the mayor of Vancouver, for example, the priority is an extension of the Millennium Line down Broadway,” Stone said. “When you talk to the mayor of Surrey, the priority is [light rail transit] on up to three lines in Surrey. Depending on any other community you talk to in the region, the priorities range from improvements to roads, bridges or increased bus frequency and capacity.”
The mayors rejected the idea that they raise the TransLink tax on property, currently at $235 for the average Metro Vancouver home with increases capped at three per cent per year by provincial legislation.
They have proposed new funding sources including a vehicle levy, a small increase in regional sales tax and eventually some form of road pricing to replace the region’s patchwork of bridge tolls.
North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton, chair of the TransLink mayors’ council, said he is expecting a letter from Stone this week to set out the province’s changes to the current governance model. Currently a professional board appointed by the province determines projects, a system imposed by former transportation minister Kevin Falcon.