Today in question period I rose to challenge the government’s lack of leadership with respect to Translink. Since the Metro Vancouver transit referendum failed earlier this year, we’ve been waiting for signs that this government understands the challenges facing the Lower Mainland’s transit infrastructure and that it understands the leadership role it needs to play.
Below I include both the video of the exchange as well as the Hansard transcript. At the end I reproduce the media statement my office released in conjunction with my line of questioning today.
A. Weaver: Since the Metro Vancouver transit referendum failed earlier this year, we’ve been waiting for signs that this government understands the challenges facing the Lower Mainland’s transit infrastructure and that it understands the leadership role it needs to play.
The appointment of a new minister responsible for TransLink signalled to many that government was about to take its leadership role seriously. We heard almost immediately from the minister that “nothing is off the table” and that he had an open mind to changing the way TransLink was managed. And yet only a couple of months after those comments were made, we have heard that in closed meetings, the minister took the idea of giving more control over TransLink to local governments off the table.
Can the minister please let this House know what has changed since he said all options were on the table and what the minister’s plan is to ensure that the much-needed transit investments aren’t put off until it’s too late?
Hon. P. Fassbender: I appreciate the question, because at the meeting I had with the Mayors Council, I clearly said that we are willing to work with the leadership in the region to move toward solutions, not focusing on the problems but looking at opportunities for solutions. But I also challenged the mayors for them to step up to their leadership role in working with the board that they appoint to ensure that we find a path to solutions, that we look at the options that are available and to remember that this government has invested billions of dollars in transportation in the province and in Metro Vancouver.
This government is committed to working with the leadership in the region to find the solutions that will ensure an integrated transportation system for the citizens and for the movement of goods and services.
A. Weaver: Thank you, hon. Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to explore that a little more. The question of local control is critical because the province is dramatically under-resourcing its local governments, all the while requiring them to pay for a third of the transit costs.
Furthermore, both the minister and the Premier have slammed the door on the mayor’s plans to develop new, innovative funding solutions, saying that they will require a new referendum if they are to be considered. The government, frankly, has paralyzed transit planning in Metro Vancouver, and they have abdicated their responsibility to show British Columbians leadership.
My question to the Minister Responsible for TransLink is this. Since the provincial government clearly has no interest in providing leadership on the transit file, how does the minister expect local governments to move forward if the province is blocking local control over TransLink and preventing local governments from even considering innovative ways to make up for their lack of financial resources?
Hon. P. Fassbender: I know the member probably doesn’t know this or is choosing to ignore it, but I’m sure his taxpayers are very clear that they are paying hospital tax that is not being paid by the residents of Metro Vancouver. Also, clearly, from the day that I was appointed, the first thing I did was select two very capable people to sit on the TransLink board as government representatives, to clearly show that we are engaged in finding solutions and are willing to work with the region to ensure those solutions are found.
In addition, it is very clear this government has said our funding support for transit infrastructure development is on the table, and we’re simply asking the region to come forward with their recommendations on how they will fund their third. I find it interesting that the members opposite, as well, are opposed to asking the residents of Metro their opinion on future funding sources, because indeed, they have a right to do that, and this government will give them that right.
Media Statement October 8, 2015
Funding innovation required for local infrastructure projects
For immediate release
Victoria B.C. – In the B.C. Legislature today Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay – Gordon Head and Deputy Leader of the B.C. Green Party questioned the Honourable Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport, Cultural Development and Minister responsible for Translink, as to why the provincial government was restricting local government revenue options for critical infrastructure projects, specifically in Metro Vancouver.
Currently the Provincial Government is requiring Municipal Governments to account for one third of the total costs for transit improvements, despite the fact that the municipal governments receive substantially less in revenue than other levels of government.
“This approach by the government to restrict the ability of local governments to look at new forms of revenue, such as tolls or road pricing, to fund transit and other major infrastructure projects places them in an untenable position” said Andrew Weaver, “The Minister and Premier are risking a total paralysis in transit planning if any new funding sources will require a new referendum, as they are indicating.”
An option the provincial government could explore is using the province’s widely heralded carbon levy to assist Translink, and provide an available fund for communities throughout the province facing similar concerns. The carbon levy is currently fixed at $30 per tonne, and raises $1.3 billion annually in a revenue neutral fashion. Increasing the levy by $5 per year to a maximum of $50 would add an additional $1 billion annually after four years. The carbon levy could remain revenue neutral by ensuring local governments would not raise residential taxes to fund major infrastructure projects.
“The Provincial government has been quick to pass off new responsibilities to local governments, but has completely restricted any new financial resources or innovative funding sources.” said Andrew Weaver, “The premier and ministers continually call for innovation from local government. It is about time we saw some of that here in the legislature.”
Press Secretary – Andrew Weaver MLA
1 250 216 3382
Victoria BC V8V 1X4
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