For the first time ever, it appears the mayors of Metro Vancouver’s two largest cities are on the same page when it comes to transit.
Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson and Surrey mayor Dianne Watts were both speaking at the Vancouver Board of Trade’s Economic Outlook Forum last Thursday. Both recognized the pressing need for more investment in transportation infrastructure to ensure long-term economic vitality in the region.
The province has been dragging its feet on the referendum by offering little details aside from announcing it would be held at the same time as civic elections on November 15.
The referendum question—or questions—have not been revealed.
Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation, has said he would like to see a simple yes-or-no question, noting that three-quarters of transit referendums in North America that were successful asked a straightforward question.
Premier Christy Clark, on the other hand, has been pushing for a multiple choice question.
“It needs to be a multiple-choice question. A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ doesn’t do justice to the questions that are there,” Clark told the Globe and Mail in December. “We really want to ask people – how much transit do you want and how do you want to pay for it? How much change do you want or do you want no change to the system at all?”
Watts jumped into the fray by proposing her own referendum question at the panel discussion and it earned the support of Robertson.
“Do you support the reduction in gas tax, a cap on the existing three per cent on property taxes for TransLink and an implementation of a fair and equitable road pricing policy under one dollar to fund the expansion of the transportation system?”
But Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who was also on the panel, said he would support it in principle if it applied to a regional package of projects, including rapid transit in Vancouver and Surrey.
In the past, Robertson has been vocal about his desire to see an extension of the Millennium Line from VCC-Clark Station all the way to as far as the University of British Columbia. While Watts has taken aim at these plans saying her city wouldn’t be paying for anymore rapid transit projects in other parts of the region.
“Vancouver wants to push their agenda and they have every right to do that,” she told Surrey Now. “But I would suggest that the multi-billion-dollar project that they’re proposing is not going to fly with residents in Surrey – and Surrey residents will be contributing to it.”
Then last November, Surrey outlined $1.8-billion plan to build three light rail lines in the city. Bypassing TransLink, the city applied to the federal government for funding through the Building Canada Plan.
It looked like it was going to be Vancouver versus Surrey show, but if the Vancouver Board of Trade event is any indication, the cities will be working together to ensure the referendum passes.
“What’s good for Surrey is good for Vancouver,” Robertson is quoted saying in Metro.