Surrey spent $240K on ‘Yes’

SURREY – The City of Surrey spent $240,500 advocating for a "Yes" vote in the transportation plebiscite.


Council had approved a budget of up to $300,000.


The plebiscite asked voters if they approved of a 0.5 per cent regional sales tax to fund $7.5 billion in improvements.


The city’s dollars went to a variety of communication initiatives, including social media strategies as well as bus shelter, print and web-based advertising.


Money was also spent on consultants, facility and tent rentals and signage.


One staff member was sent to the Regional Mayor’s Secretariat for a period of time to assist with the co-ordination of both campaigns.


Comparably, Vancouver spent $350,000 and New Westminster budgeted $20,000.


Delta, on the other hand, spent nothing, according to Mayor Lois Jackson. In fact, she said the municipality didn’t even promote one side of the vote.


"When we sent out notices for our water and sewer and utility bills, as I always do I put a little note in there to people explaining things," said Jackson.


"We did advise people to take the time to understand what this was all about and make their decision and their choice."


Over and above what individual municipalities spent, the Metro Vancouver mayor’s spent $5.8 million of taxpayers’ money promoting a "Yes" vote, according to figures released last week.


Fierce campaigns have been unleashed on both sides of the argument.


The "Yes" side has said the projects are crucial to the region’s future. Without them, roads will be jam packed, costing billions of dollars in congestion, they say.


Mayor Linda Hepner has pointed out that 40 per cent of the spending in the vision is dedicated to Surrey projects, one of which is an LRT line. She promised residents in her election campaign that she would have operational light right in Surrey by 2018.


"We’ve got another million people we expect over the next two decades who need to be accommodated and it’s just unconscionable… to do nothing," she said.


Meanwhile, the "No" side spent just under $40,000. Those on that side of the argument say the government should be able to fund the projects within the envelope they have and that TransLink shouldn’t be trusted.


Leading the No TransLink Tax campaign is Jordan Bateman, with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.


He said the mayors’ admission they spent nearly $6 million is just the beginning.


"This spending doesn’t include what we estimate to be at least another million bucks spent by the city halls in favour of the tax, the time dedicated by dozens of TransLink and municipal staff working for the ‘Yes’ side, or the money raised by the Better Transit Transportation Coalition," he said.


"Knowing the TransLink Mayors spent these millions of dollars to buy this vote just makes us all the more proud of our scrappy, little No TransLink Tax campaign," he added.


Nearly 700,000 ballots were submitted representing roughly 44.7 per cent of the 1.56 million registers voters in the region.


Results of the vote are expected in late June or early July.

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