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Transit vote: Metro Vancouver says a resounding No to new tax in non-binding plebiscite

The Province logo The Province 2015-07-03 Nick Eagland
Metro Vancouver voters rejected a proposed boost to the provincial sales tax to fund transit improvements including more buses, light rail in Surrey and Langley and a Broadway subway. © Nick Procaylo Metro Vancouver voters rejected a proposed boost to the provincial sales tax to fund transit improvements including more buses, light rail in Surrey and Langley and a Broadway subway.

Metro Vancouver has voted overwhelmingly against raising taxes to fund transit and transportation improvements, with more than 60 per cent of voters supporting the No side.

Between March 16 and May 29, voters from 23 municipalities in the region were asked to return a mail-in ballot asking whether they supported adding 0.5 per cent to the provincial sales tax for a “Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax” to fund transit and transportation improvements.

The 10-year, $7.5-billion plan included proposed improvements such as road upgrades, increased transit service, a new Pattullo Bridge, light rail transit in Surrey and Langley, a Broadway subway and expanded pedestrian and cycling networks.

The results of the non-binding plebiscite, announced at 10 a.m. Thursday by B.C.’s chief electoral officer, Keith Archer, show that the No side came out ahead with 61.68 per cent of the vote, while the Yes side garnered just 38.32 per cent of ballots cast.

In Vancouver, 49.19 per cent of the city’s 210,249 voters voted yes while 50.81 voted no.

In Surrey, just 34.46 per cent voted yes while 65.54 per cent voted no. In Burnaby, 35.06 per cent voted yes and 64.94 per cent voted no.

Elections B.C. had to count a total of 759,696 ballots, representing 51.09 per cent of B.C.’s 1,562,386 registered voters.

Of those ballot packages returned, 38,393 were not considered for failing to meet the requirements of the plebiscite regulations, and 2,513 were spoiled.

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Michael Smyth: Weep for your wallet today, let's fix this TransLink mess tomorrow

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The No side, led by Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Association, argued that mayors should find the money within their municipalities’ coffers and that TransLink should not be trusted with any more taxpayer money.

“This is a tremendous victory for taxpayers, our underdog No TransLink Tax campaign and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation,” Bateman said in a release following the announcement.

“Our campaign didn’t have millions of taxpayer dollars or fancy CEOs committing their groups to our cause — we had everyday taxpayers who simply believe TransLink wastes too much of our money to be trusted with any more of it. This is a win for all of us.”

The mayors’ council estimated it spent $5.8 million on the Yes campaign while Bateman said his No side spent about $40,000.

While most mayors on the council supported a yes vote, several spoke publicly against it, including Nicole Read of Maple Ridge, Mike Smith of West Vancouver and Derek Corrigan of Burnaby.

TransLink generated criticism during the campaign for delays in rolling out the Compass card program and numerous SkyTrain shutdowns.

The embattled transit authority announced in February that CEO Ian Jarvis would step down “to restore public confidence” ahead of the plebiscite, while at the same time appointing an interim CEO, Doug Allen, meaning both would draw salaries.

PLEBISCITE BY THE NUMBERS

$5.76 million

Amount spent to administer the plebiscite, as estimated by Elections B.C. The final cost will be reported in the Report of the Chief Electoral Officer, scheduled for publication in September.

$5.8 million

Amount of taxpayer money Metro Vancouver mayors spent promoting the Yes vote in the transit plebiscite.

$40,000

Amount spent by the No campaign. The money came from donations and businesses.

3

Number of voting areas — Belcarra, Metro Vancouver Electoral Area A and Bowen Island — that registered more than 50-per-cent support for the tax. Bowen Island had the highest per cent support at 61.92.

759,696

Number of ballots considered in the vote. There were 2,513 rejected ballots.

51.09

Percentage of total registered voters who returned ballot packages. As of May 15, there were 1,562,386 registered voters in Metro Vancouver.

77.03

The highest percentage of No votes in a municipality, registered in the City of Maple Ridge. The Township of Langley had the next highest percentage of No votes, at 74.97.

neagland@theprovince.com

twitter.com/nickeagland

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