Road pricing requires referendum: Premier

Property tax is Metro Vancouver mayors' only option for new TransLink funding source without new vote

Premier Christy Clark is holding firm to her position that Metro Vancouver mayors will have to win a referendum if they want to add a new funding source for TransLink, including any eventual imposition of road pricing.

“I think it’s the right thing to do to ask people,” Clark said after mayors voted last week to urgently study road pricing options, which could someday replace the tolls on just some bridges with per kilometre fees to drive on all major routes.

“It would be a new funding source,” Clark said, noting the province has been able to build schools and hospitals without creating new taxes.

RELATED:Road tolls called too risky after referendum

More bridges are expected to be tolled after the Pattullo Bridge and Massey Tunnel are replaced.

When asked if those tolls would be subject to referendum, the premier was non-committal.

“We’re going to have that discussion about that as those projects continue to go ahead,” Clark said.

“But people have choices about whether or not they pay for that new source of funding. If it was a new sales tax, which was proposed in the last referendum, no one would have a choice about whether or not they would have paid for that.”

Clark’s comments follow calls last week for her to abandon the continued referendum requirement on grounds it will thwart transit expansion and effective regional planning.

Metro residents voted by a 62 per cent margin against a 0.5 per cent sales tax earlier this year.

Metro mayors have asked TransLink to study mobility pricing options and determine how such a system could be advanced as quickly as possible.

A report to the mayors said mobility pricing could cut congestion while generating new funding to expand transit.

It notes any move to road pricing should happen before the two new toll bridges are built on the Fraser River, otherwise it could be complex and costly to change deals with P3 bridge operators afterwards.

Despite the new urgency to pursue road pricing, mayors don’t expect the options will be fully fleshed out for months if not years. Previous estimates have suggested such a system is five to eight years away.

Communities Minister Peter Fassbender, who has responsibility for TransLink, made it clear the referendum requirement also applies to any move to introduce an annual vehicle levy, which is enabled in TransLink legislation but considered a new tax by the province.

He also said a vehicle levy wouldn’t be fair enough to the region’s residents.

“People who live in apartments in downtown Vancouver who use transit and who are beneficiaries of the transportation system would not be contributing,” Fassbender said. “It would only be people using and driving cars.”

The only tax mayors could feasibly use to generate new revenue without a referendum is the one they don’t want to use – property tax.

Fassbender suggested they relent on that and raise TransLink’s dedicated property tax somewhat to improve bus service while work continues to find a solution to build their proposed major projects – light rail in Surrey, a Broadway SkyTrain extension and the new Pattullo Bridge.

“I believe it is a fair and equitable source of funding,” Fassbender said of property tax. “Everybody shares who lives in the region, whether they own or rent, and even if they don’t have a car and ride transit.”

He said it’s important to make some progress to realizing the mayors’ plan, which he said was broadly supported in the region despite the referendum failure.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, the mayors’ council vice-chair, panned the idea of resorting to property tax.

“There are so many pressure points on local government finance, I don’t think there’s an appetite for property tax and I think every single mayor has made that fairly clear.”

Hepner said no mayors want to go through another referendum but she defended the decision to research road pricing as necessary to determining if and how it might work here.

Surrey North Delta Leader

Just Posted

Hundreds gathered at Surrey’s Holland Park Friday (June 11) in memory of the Muslim family killed in London, Ont. on Sunday (June 6). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Educating public ‘exhausting,’ says White Rock Muslim Association past president

Asad Syed says public needs to be more vocal in their condemnation

People were lined up around the fields at a drop-in vaccine clinic at Newton Athletic Park on Tuesday (April 27, 2021), which is one of the high-transmission neighbourhoods that are being given vaccine priority. This clinic was one of at least three to open in the city on Tuesday. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey’s weekly cases continue to drop, push for 80% vaccination rate citywide

BCCDC reports 263 cases for Surrey the week of May 30 to June 5

The City of White Rock turns 63 today. (file photo)
City of White Rock 2020 annual report available for review

Report to be discussed at June 28 council meeting

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of June 13

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read