Van­cou­ver res­i­dents vote against tax in­crease

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - By Mike Moore

VAN­COU­VER res­i­dents re­cently voted No in a plebiscite re­gard­ing a $7.5 bil­lion trans­porta­tion plan. A sig­nif­i­cant 61.7 per cent of vot­ers re­jected the no­tion of in­creas­ing their sales tax by 0.5 per cent to help fund this ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture pro­ject. Jor­dan Bate­men, the leader of the No cam­paign, ar­gued that Tran­sLink, Van­cou­ver’s trans­porta­tion au­thor­ity, al­ready wastes too much money and shouldn’t be given any more. The onus will now be on Tran­sLink to de­liver im­proved ser­vices through cost sav­ings. Van­cou­ver Mayor Gre­gor Robert­son ad­mits to need­ing an al­ter­nate so­lu­tion from the BC pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment as mu­nic­i­pal in­creases in prop­erty taxes is not an op­tion. The trans­porta­tion plebiscite was forced by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment as part of a 2013 elec­tion cam­paign prom­ise. The pro­posal was part of a tri-party (fed­eral, pro­vin­cial, mu­nic­i­pal) fund­ing plan; how­ever 20 of the 23 vot­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties voted No, even transit-friendly ur­ban ar­eas. Ref­er­en­dums of this na­ture are a com­mon prac­tice in the United States, but sel­dom used in Canada. A few On­tario mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties were con­sid­er­ing sim­i­lar strate­gies but are now likely back­ing off in an­tic­i­pa­tion of some back­lash. In Toronto, they have looked at new ve­hi­cle levies, gas taxes and sales taxes, but have not moved for­ward. Mon­treal is cal­cu­lat­ing pos­si­ble rev­enues from pri­vate de­vel­op­ments along sub­way lines. The BC pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment said that they would not con­sider di­vert­ing funds from the car­bon tax or im­pos­ing a new ve­hi­cle levy. Most agree that this was not so much a vote against im­proved transit or bet­ter in­fra­struc­ture but rather a vote against higher taxes, in any form. Van­cou­ver is an ex­pen­sive place to live. Hous­ing costs are the high­est in Canada and rank among the most ex­pen­sive any­where. They had a Pro­vin­cial Sales Tax, then a Har­mo­nized Sales Tax and then voted in a ref­er­en­dum to bring the PST back again. Then came this mo­tion to in­crease that tax. To be fair, the Yes cam­paign wasn’t very well or­ga­nized. How­ever, it ap­pears as though any tax in­crease for any cause was go­ing to be re­jected. A tax is a tax; call it what­ever you want. Whether it is a transit levy, a ve­hi­cle sur­charge, a road toll, a de­vel­op­ment charge, a frontage levy, a fuel sur­charge or an in­crease to the PST, it’s still a tax and the bur­den falls upon the taxpayers to bear the brunt. The peo­ple of Van­cou­ver said No very loudly and told their gov­ern­ments to find a bet­ter way. Mike Moore is pres­i­dent of the Man­i­toba Home Builders’ As­so­ci­a­tion

DARRYL DYCK / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Res­i­dents of Metro Van­cou­ver have re­jected a half-per-cent sales tax in­crease that was to fund $7.5 bil­lion in trans­porta­tion up­grades.

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