RADIA: TransLink and cities should cut costs, not raise taxes

FACE TO FACE: Should a 0.5% tax be added to the PST to pay for public transit?

My colleague opposite and I agree that transportation should be a top priority for our city governments. We certainly need to find sustainable funding sources to pay for our road infrastructure and public transit.

But this idea from Metro Vancouver mayors to add a 0.5% transit tax onto our PST is ridiculous.

To be clear, I actually think a consumer tax is more preferable to an increase in income tax. It’s less regressive in that it taxes money spent instead of money earned. Also, consumer taxes mitigate the use of loopholes and free taxpayers from the time-consuming task of preparing annual tax returns.

But this isn’t a question about raising money.

It’s quite clear Translink and Metro Vancouver governments have an expense problem, not a revenue problem.

In recent interviews, Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation cited the Translink audit that showed significant inefficiencies in the governance of the regional transportation authority.

“To claim that they need $750 million more when audits have shown that one out of every $10 is inefficiently spent, that’s a real stretch,” Bateman told Global News. “Future megaprojects will have to wait until the economy rebounds.”

I also believe that it’s disingenuous for our city governments to cry poor.

In the Tri-Cities, we have the city of Coquitlam spending $15 million on a library we don’t really need. Last month, the city of Port Moody gave its unionized staff a sweetheart deal with 6.75% in raises over four years.

Here’s a way for the three local governments to save money: Amalgamate into one city and turn 33 mayors and councillors into one mayor and 10 councillors.

And that’s just the waste within Tri-Cities; millions of dollars are wasted throughout the Lower Mainland. (For instance, last year, the city of Vancouver spent $3 million for a new website.)

Last year, mayors and councillors who sat on Metro Vancouver’s board of directors earned $714,000 to attend board meetings — on top of what they earned for being mayors and municipal councillors. That’s right, they were paid $714,000 extra to do their job.

Instead of begging for more money, Translink and our city governments should do better with the money they have. Once they get their houses in order, then maybe they can look at other taxing mechanisms.

Until then, they should stay away from our wallets.

Andy Radia is a Coquitlam resident and political columnist who writes for Yahoo! Canada News and Vancouver View Magazine. He has been politically active in the Tri-Cities, having been involved with election campaigns at all three levels of government, including running for Coquitlam city council in 2005.


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