News / Vancouver

B.C. approves transit referendum question, ballots mailed March 16

The provincial government has given final approval to a regional transit referendum question and has promised to mail out ballots to voters starting March 16, 2015.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone announced his approval Thursday, while slightly altering the question originally proposed by the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation.

The final ballot will ask: “Do you support a new 0.5% Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax, to be dedicated to the Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan?”

Metro Vancouver mayors had proposed a 0.5 per cent increase to the Provincial Sales Tax, but Stone said the regional sales tax needed to be “separate and distinct” from the PST.

If approved, the Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax would be applied to the majority of goods and services that are subject to the PST and are sold or delivered within the region.

In his letters to the council, Stone (who said government would not campaign for either a “Yes” or “No” vote) wrote he looks “forward to a positive outcome that will benefit the residents of Metro Vancouver and the economy of British Columbia.

Ballots will be sent out beginning March 16, 2015 with the voting period extending until May 29, 2015.

The vote needs a 50 per cent, plus one, to pass.

“The Minister’s approval today clears the way for a spring referendum on our plan to cut congestion by improving major roads and existing transit routes, and creating new bus and rapid transit services throughout the region,” said North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton, chairman of the Mayors’ Council, in a statement. “This is a significant milestone in our proposal to keep this region moving as we accommodate a million more people in the next 30 years. We simply can’t afford to do nothing.”

The mayors believe a regional sales tax would generate $250 million annually, to fund its share of a 10-year, $7.5-billion proposed transit plan that includes a subway along Broadway in Vancouver, light rapid transit lines in Surrey, a new Pattullo Bridge and expanded bus service throughout the region.

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