There was shock across Canada last month when Vancouver area residents resoundingly voted against a plan to add a half percent to the provincial sales tax to fund expanded transit. Vancouver, after all was declaring war on the car long before it became fashionable in other Canadian jurisdictions. Vancouver has prided itself on not building a freeway network, instead focusing on elevated commuter transit and LRT. Translink, the Metro Vancouver transportation board spent $6 Million selling the transit scheme to the public to no avail. The No side prevailed by a two-to-one margin despite spending almost nothing. Translink itself appeared to be a big part of the public’s antipathy to the scheme. There is a persistent impression in Vancouver that Translink is a bloated bureaucracy that is in need of an overhaul. The Translink board fired its CEO in the middle of the campaign which did not appease a skeptical public. The finger of blame is also being pointed at the provincial government who dumped the funding issue back on the area Mayors rather than moving decisively to impose a financial solution. Most observers say the vote was in no way an anti transit vote, but rather a vote against raising taxes at a time when there is low confidence in the ability of governments to properly manage its finances. There is a cautionary note here for the Ontario government which has not covered itself in glory on major files like energy and transportation. The most recent example is the Pan Am highway traffic mess aimed at making it easier for games participants to move around the GTA, but which is inconveniencing millions of commuters.
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