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