Referendum conundrium

During last year’s provincial election Christy Clark promised that any new funding for TransLink would be decided by a referendum held in conjunction with the 2014 municipal elections. It was a bad idea then, it’s a bad idea now.

There is a body of opinion that government should not govern by referendum, that it’s purpose is to decide complex issues like taxation. Indeed, the BC Liberal government endorsed this view after it lost the HST referendum. So why the change of heart?

We’re told the objective is to provide voters the opportunity to have a say about the preferred way to raise additional money to pay for TransLink projects. The options, however, appear rather limited: a new tax or an increase in an existing tax or a combination of both. The wording of the question hasn’t been decided yet, but it doesn’t take a political analyst with an economics degree to figure out that it will beg the answer: “No. No more taxes, No increase in taxes.”

People are like that. Hell, sometimes I’m like that.

So, let’s say the referendum fails to “find” additional money for TransLink projects. What then?  Well, the 76-year-old Pattullo Bridge will still need to be replaced. Light rail project plans will be filed away. Bus service wont be improved . And generally the on-going development of an efficient transportation plan for the region will suffer a major set back.

On the other hand, maybe the majority of voters will agree to more taxation to ensure that doesn’t happen.

But really, Premier Clark, is it worth the risk?

Bill Brassington


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