COLUMN: ‘Taxes’ will be levied despite plebiscite outcome

If one is to believe the polls, Metro Vancouver’s transit plebiscite is going down to defeat – or if you are on the “No” side, to victory

If one is to believe the polls, Metro Vancouver’s transit plebiscite is going down to defeat – or if you are on the “No” side, to victory.

So, living east of Metro, should we be concerned?

Let’s look at it this way. Should the 0.5% increase to sales tax in Metro be rejected, the need for improved and increased transit still remains.

This means the money needed for improvements will have to come from somewhere.

A vehicle levy on Metro residents is one way. Another would be road-usage levies, which would affect everyone regardless of where you live. Like the tolling sensors on the Port Mann Bridge, units could be placed every few kilometres along Highway 1 between Vancouver and Langley.

The more you travel, the more you pay.

And for anyone using this route, and any other that road-travel pricing may have placed on it, the levies will be indiscriminate.

Drive it and you will pay whether you live in Metro, or just travel through it from the Interior on your way to the airport or ferry terminals.

Cost recovery for transit investments that ARE going to happen won’t stop there. Metro residents could see their property taxes rise to meet the need for cash flow, and I’ll bet there’ll be a penny or two added to the price of a litre of fuel along with other fees that may be added to generate funds.

All of the above have been discussed. All have been considered and at this point rejected, based on the ability to raise the PST by a simple half-point, and by the fact that such increases are politically unpalatable.

However, the need to move more people in mass transit throughout Metro now and in the future is a reality, political and otherwise, and it will happen one financial way or the other.

And this brings me back to what I wrote a number of weeks ago: a .5% increase in the PST is the cheapest, most equitable way to raise the needed funds. Any increased charges (read that hidden taxes) on vehicle ownership and operation, from casual drivers to commuters to transport trucks hauling our groceries will invariably cost most, and target a more select group (motorists).

Everyone pays PST, and in Metro “everyone” includes transit users who may not have a car, who may live at home rent-free, who may otherwise not contribute to the real cost of their ride.

I don’t really care one way or the other, because for the number of times I might travel into potential tolling zones, or perhaps buy a few litres of gas within Metro, the cost will be negligible.

On the other hand, what does or does not affect me directly is also, in the grand scheme of things, irrelevant. The collective “we” in British Columbia will have to plan for current and future growth because it will occur whether we like it or not.

Municipal boundaries not withstanding, what happens in Metro is of consequence to folks in Abbotsford, Chilliwack and, albeit perhaps to a lesser extent, throughout the rest of the province.

We are all in this together. More fees on trucks that deliver our goods, provide our services and transport our building products will be passed on to all consumers regardless of where they live. A slight hike in the PST – 50 cents on a $100 expenditure – for those who will benefit from and use urban transit is sensible, fair, and despite the No-side claims of already being taxed to death, reasonable.

I can’t wait to hear what those successfully voting No say when, after rejecting the plebiscite, they see what fees will be later levied, without a vote, for the (and I stress) necessary transit improvements to come.

markrushton@abbynews.com

 

 

 

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