Mayors eye unspent federal gas tax for TransLink

Transit officials say there is no surplus, $400 million fund will be fully used

TransLink has more buses than it can afford to run

The federal government could at the stroke of a pen solve TransLink’s cash crunch by letting it spend a growing pile of federal gas tax money on operating costs, not just to buy buses.

That’s the argument Metro Vancouver directors are making and they’re asking Ottawa to make the change, freeing up about $120 million per year in gas tax that the federal government already offers but TransLink has not been fully spending.

“All of our problems would be solved – the expansion we’ve requested could occur,” Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan told the Metro Vancouver board Friday.

Ottawa hands over most of the gas tax it collects to cities and in Metro Vancouver it is allocated to TransLink. It’s separate from the 17 cents a litre that TransLink directly collects and can spend without restriction.

But TransLink is not allowed to spend the federal tax on anything but new transit vehicles when what it really needs is operating money to pay the drivers, fuel and maintenance bills to run more of the buses it already owns.

As a result, the unspent federal gas tax fund has ballooned to a $400-million fund that has politicians salivating.

They say it would easily allow TransLink to avoid the controversial $30 million increase in annual property taxes that mayors want to rescind, while restoring all of the promised transit upgrades that have been carved out of the latest plan.

“It seems absolutely crazy,” Corrigan said. “We are mothballing buses of serviceable use because we don’t have enough money to put them on the street.”

Two years ago TransLink was restricted by Ottawa from using the transferred gas tax for road work or bike lanes.

Metro also wants those options restored to broaden the number of eligible capital projects.

TransLink executive vice-president Bob Paddon said Metro directors are mistaken in thinking there’s some sort of surplus available to be tapped or that TransLink isn’t making full use of the transferred tax.

He said all of the money will go to capital projects – replacement buses and community shuttles are on order – but the money from the restricted account won’t flow until TransLink receives them, leaving a gap of a couple of years that shows on the books as unspent.

“It’s not as if this is not going to be spent,” Paddon said. “It’s all going to be spent – when the order is complete.”

He said Ottawa doesn’t allow the gas tax to be used for operating expenses.

Even if it did, he said, TransLink could not treat it as a reliable ongoing source as it is subject to federal renewal and is not permanent.

Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender also cautioned that using the gas tax fund for operating costs would leave less available down the road for capital spending, adding that might merely trade the short-time crisis for longer-term challenges.

 

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Surrey-area associations gear up for hockey restart

But it’s not yet clear when city-operated rinks and rec centres will reopen

Proposed Marine Drive zone aims to make use of small lots ‘more efficient’

CR-3A zone discussed during White Rock’s first virtual public information meeting

Rugby practices to return to Lower Mainland fields this fall

B.C. Rugby announced its return to play plan July 7

White Rock calls for street-banner artists

Deadline to apply is 4 p.m. July 24

Surrey Mounties seize shotgun, ammo, after officers shot at with BB gun in Newton

Police say they were on foot patrol in the 6400-block of King George Boulevard when someone fired at them with a BB gun

The pandemic is widening Canada’s workplace gender gap

Gender pay gap is incentivizing fathers to work while mothers watch children, a new B.C. study has found

Investigation clears RCMP in incident where man fell from Langley overpass

‘Officers acted commendably and placed themselves at risk’ police watchdog report finds

Ex-Okanagan Mountie forfeits 20 days’ pay after sexual misconduct review

A former Vernon RCMP constable made sexual comments, grabbed genitals of male officer in two incidents 10 years ago

Rural Chilliwack residents asked to stay indoors, lock doors amid heavy police presence

Heavy police presence in rural Chilliwack neighbourhood as RCMP contend with ‘serious situation’

Man found dead on Okanagan trail identified as Hollywood actor

GoFundMe campaign launched for man found dead at summit of Spion Kop

3 people dead in Prince George motel fire

Fire personnel believe the blaze was suspicious although investigation in early stages

B.C. sets terms to review police, mental health, race relations

MLAs to recommend Police Act changes by May 2021

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Ghost gear accounts for up to 70 per cent of all macro-plastics in the ocean by weight

Most Read