VICTORIA—Metro Vancouver residents will soon know if there will be a regional referendum asking them to approve tax increases for new and improved transit projects.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone said Thursday he will review a ballot question proposing a provincial tax hike of half a per cent for the region.
He said the government may tweak the question slightly but he suggested the plan is moving towards a vote sometime next year.
“I think that substantially there’s more than enough to work with here, both in terms of what the mayors are proposing in the funding source as well as the question,” said Stone.
“We can work with this. There may be some tweaks or adjustments to what they’ve proposed today, but I’m very confident.”
District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton, the chairman of the Mayors’ Council, said traffic congestion is a growing problem and one million more people are expected to move to the area by 2040.
Proposed transit improvements include better service on existing SeaBus routes from North Vancouver and the West Coast Express, along with a commuter train between Mission and downtown Vancouver.
New SkyTrain lines would be built in Surrey and Vancouver, and the antiquated Pattullo Bridge would be replaced as part of the $7.5-billion plan covering 21 municipalities.
The provincial government must approve the referendum question before residents vote on whether to pay more tax dollars for transit.
A date has not been set for the referendum, but the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation said it’s against any tax hikes to fund transit projects.
A majority of Metro Vancouver mayors approved the question as the most affordable proposal for the majority of residents at a meeting in New Westminster.
It passed by a count of 109 to 19, under the weighted voting system of the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council. It was opposed by the mayors of Burnaby, West Vancouver and Maple Ridge.
The proposed question says: “Do you support a one half percentage point increase to the Provincial Sales Tax in Metro Vancouver dedicated to the Mayors’ Transportation and Transit plan, with independent audits and public reporting?”