B.C.’s Green Party says it will stay neutral in the transit referendum.
Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Andrew Weaver says he would vote Yes with some misgivings if he lived in Metro Vancouver, but added the Greens as a party will take no position.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for a provincial party to firmly take a position on a municipal referendum,” Weaver said. “It’s a Metro Vancouver sales tax. That’s the relevant level of government we should be looking at to support it.”
Weaver said he would be a reluctant Yes voter in the Congestion Improvement Tax plebiscite only because he dislikes the choice of a 0.5 per cent extra sales tax, which he calls punitive, especially for the poor.
“I would vote Yes but I wouldn’t have done it this way.”
The Green MLA said if the referendum fails he will push for reconsideration of his first choice of a tax mechanism – further increases in B.C.’s carbon tax to be charged province-wide and then distributed to municipalities to fund local infrastructure.
Weaver said the carbon tax last year brought in $1.2 billion at $30 per tonne of carbon emitted and could be increased in $5 increments to $50 a tonne to generate hundreds of millions in additional revenue – for transit in Metro Vancouver and other projects elsewhere in B.C.
“The carbon tax is a user-pay model that has a social licence,” he said. “If you want to drive a Hummer so be it, but you’re going to pay more than if you drive an electric vehicle.”
Metro mayors contemplated a regional carbon tax as an alternative to the sales tax last year, but rejected it.
A higher carbon tax was considered unfair to motorists and too similar to TransLink’s fuel tax, which already spurs some drivers to fill up outside the region.
The sales tax hike was also the the only potential source that captures some money from out-of-region visitors and tourists who use Metro’s roads and transit but don’t otherwise contribute to it.
The Mayors’ Council also estimated it would take a $40 per tonne carbon tax increase to raise the required $250 million in new revenue – equivalent to adding a further nine cents a litre at the pumps on top of the existing 6.7 cents in carbon tax and TransLink’s 17-cent fuel tax.