Robertson: transit vote most important of our time
One caller, Brenda, asked "what are the implications of a 'NO' vote?"
"It’ll cost more to get around," replied Mayor Gregor Robertson.
"There's no plan B," he continued, noting that if Metro Vancouver residents say 'NO' to transit now, the provincial government is not going to "swoop in and save the day." Quite the contrary, he stressed. A 'NO' vote will signal that Metro Vancouver residents don't value transit.
Robertson called the transit plebiscite the "most important vote of our time." With one million new residents coming into Vancouver in the next 25 years, we need to "invest in the short term for long-time gain."
Voting 'YES' means our city continues to thrive, and won't choke with gridlock. Voting 'NO' means our quality of life will decline.
So went the most dramatic moment in a telephone town hall meeting hosted by veteran broadcaster Bill Good on Metro Vancouver's upcoming transit plebiscite.
Along with the mayor, Councillor Adrienne Carr of the Green Party and Councillor George Affleck of the NPA, took calls from voters on the proposed sales tax increase and the Mayors' Council ten-year Transportation Plan for Metro Vancouver.
That the mayor and each of the councillors hail from different political parties is significant. It underscores the near-unanimity amongst Metro Vancouver politicians on the need to increase the PST by .5% to fund transportation and transit improvements and reduce congestion in the region.
As Metro-area citizens called in, one dominant theme quickly emerged: citizens want transportation improvements but don't trust TransLink to manage and allocate the funds appropriately.
One caller named Jackie stated, "I just can’t trust a company that doesn’t put in turnpikes and then they comes crying to me to say they don’t have enough money."
Councillor Carr echoed that she also was uneasy about accountability at TransLink. She said she studied the plan carefully to assess whether the monies from the increased sales tax would go directly toward funding the Transportation Plan and nothing else.
"I’m impressed," said Councillor Carr. "[The PST revenue] will be earmarked for a special fund, audited and publicly reported. It's a really secure system."
Two other callers, Timothy and Jane, both questioned Mayor Robertson on what he was doing to bring more transparency to TransLink.
Robertson replied that he's already pushed for changes which resulted in two mayors— himself and Surrey Mayor, Linda Hepner— being appointed to the TransLink board. He said there was more work to do to improve accountability and transparency and that he would "continue to press for that with the provincial government."
George Affleck addressed specific concerns that business owners have about the tax increase and how transit issues affect them.
Said Affleck, "This is a tax increase and it's well known I don’t like tax increases." But, he said, "it's a fair tax."
He noted that for business owners, "It costs money to be stuck in traffic." He also noted that business owners need transit so their employees can get to work and their kids can get to school.
"As painful as it is for me to support a tax increase," he said, business owners need roads, bridges and boats to prosper.
Both Councillor Affleck and Mayor Robertson agreed that Vancouver is ten years behind in transit and transportation improvements.