VANCOUVER – Residents of Metro Vancouver have rejected a half-per-cent sales tax to fund $7.5 billion in transportation upgrades across the region.
Elections BC said Thursday that 62 per cent of voters said No to the tax plan put forward by mayors and representatives from 21 municipalities and a First Nation.
The tax was expected to generate funding for more buses, road development, a subway line extension and construction of a new bridge.
Maple Ridge, Langley and Richmond residents voted overwhelmingly against the tax while the highest support for the proposal came from residents on Bowen Island.
The village of Belcarra and an unincorporated electoral area that includes the University of British Columbia were the only other jurisdictions besides Bowen Island to register more than 50-per-cent support for the tax.
Residents in Vancouver voted 51 per cent against the proposal.
The Yes side spent just over $5.8 million promoting its stance while the No campaign spent about $40,000 voicing its opposition.
Jordan Bateman, who led the opposition as director of the western chapter of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said cash-strapped residents wanted accountability and better management from TransLink, the region’s transit authority.
He said in a release that the No forces didn’t have millions of taxpayer dollars for their cause but rather consisted of “everyday taxpayers who simply believe TransLink wastes too much of our money to be trusted with any more of it.”
Transportation Minister Todd Stone said there’s no alternative funding plan for transit projects.
Proponents of the tax argued that transit upgrades are needed to accommodate the one million new residents expected to move into the Vancouver area over the next 30 years, but the No side maintained those projects could still be built through other means.
Throughout the campaign, many of the region’s mayors warned that upgrading transit was critical to avoiding a series of economic and environmental consequences.
Elections BC sent out ballots in mid-March and voting ended about a month ago.
Metro Vancouver’s transit plebiscite is the first of its kind in Canada. Some American cities, including Los Angeles and Portland, Ore., have used direct votes to garner support for new transportation infrastructure.
The Vancouver area faces the same dilemma of aging infrastructure as Toronto, Calgary and Winnipeg, which have all been working on expensive transit improvements.