EDITORIAL: Buck up, Ottawa

Things are clearly getting desperate for Lower Mainland mayors if they are seriously proposing a sales tax to help pay for public transportation in the region.

The proposed TransLink sales tax would add up to 0.5% on to taxes already charged for goods and services sold in Metro Vancouver.

At five cents on every $10 spent, such a tax would be modest — so much so that most consumers likely wouldn’t notice it — yet it will generate $250 million in new revenue.

The fact is, cost-efficient public transportation benefits everyone. It facilitates trade, eases automobile traffic, reduces the need for costly freeways and, unlike roads, it is a user-pay system.

In that light, the proposed tax makes a lot of sense. It’s an investment in our economy.

But any new tax is politically poisonous, especially a sales tax. Just ask Gordon Campbell or Brian Mulroney.

So for Lower Mainland mayors to float this idea, you can be sure of one thing: They are out of ideas.

There are many reasons for Translink’s funding woes. One that rarely gets mentioned is that Metro Vancouver is a victim of its geography, and what makes it beautiful also makes it a nightmare to get around. Mountains, rivers and the ocean are pretty to look at but designing transit infrastructure around them is costly.

We’re also nearly 4,500 km away from Canada’s seat of power, and, thus, we are an afterthought politically. This might be Metro Vancouver’s most tragic geographical shortcoming.

Of the 12 current projects listed on Transport Canada’s website as receiving federal money, seven are for projects located in the Greater Toronto Area, totalling more than $1.6 billion in funding.

For all of B.C., the feds are contributing just $500 million, the bulk of that going to construction of the Evergreen Line from Burnaby to Coquitlam. No word on how a Surrey SkyTrain expansion will be funded.

Metro Vancouver is not getting its fair share of federal transportation funding. We may have half the population of Toronto but we’re getting one-third the funding and our need is arguably greater.

Before more taxes, it’s time for all levels of government to take responsibility for public transportation in the Lower Mainland.


— South Delta Leader (Black Press)



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