Canadian Consulting Engineer

No vote in Vancouver prompts engineers task force

July 8, 2015

ACEC-BC sets out to examine new funding models after Metro Vancouver residents vote against tax hike for expanding transportation infrastructure.

The consulting engineering and construction communities are expressing disappointment that people in Metro Vancouver voted against a sales tax hike to fund transportation and transit expansions.

Announced on July 2, the results of the plebiscite were 61.7% against a sales tax hike of 0.5% which would have been used to help fund a $7.5-billion regional transportation plan. Only 38.4% of the total 759,700 people who sent in their ballots voted yes.

In terms of how the different municipalities responded, only three voted in favour of the tax. In the City of Vancouver, votes were evenly split down the middle.

The plebiscite was arranged and supported by the Mayors Council on Regional Transportation, representing 21 municipalities and the Tsawwassen First Nation. It was also supported by business, unions, environmental groups and the construction industry.

The BC Road Builders said they were “very disappointed” and predicted that the no vote “means many critical transportation projects will be delayed or cancelled due to lack of funding.”

Keith Sashaw, President of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies of BC (ACEC-BC), said they were also disappointed in the results, but efforts must now focus on finding alternative funding options. To this end, the association has formed a task force to examine the range of revenue tools available, including system-wide tolling or congestion pricing.

“Regardless of the plebiscite results,” Sashaw said, “it is critical that the region makes plans and prepares to finance investments in transportation and transit. We believe that there was very little opposition to the underlying premise of the plebiscite and there was broad acceptance that the actual plan put forward by the Mayors Council was sound and necessary. The discussion should now focus on alternative methods of how the region can implement the plan, using other funding models.”

Recent studies, including one by the C.D. Howe Institute have found that the hidden costs of increased traffic congestion in the Metro Vancouver region are between $500 million and $1.2 billion a year.

Most analysts saw the negative result of the plebiscite as a vote against increased taxes, or a criticism of Translink the regional transportation authority, rather than a vote against expanding transit.

To read the ACEC-BC press release of July 3, click here.



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