LAUTENS: Politicians face off on transit vote

The transportation referendum — hold on, we interrupt this rant for a breaking rant from our opinion room: Stephen Harper will win this year’s federal election. We now return you to regular ranting . . .

You read it here first. The Conservatives have taken two decisive steps — turning up the investigative heat on the gauche wannabe domestic terrorist and the imported real article, and the so-called tough-on-crime legislation.

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Those initiatives will win the hearts of Main Street Canada — leaving, stranded up a political Suburb Street without a trolley, Trudeau the Younger with an expired transfer of me-too-but-we’ll-change-this-when-we’re government, and Tom (Eyes) Mulcair with a pompous harrumph, at curbside. Watch getting splashed by the Tory campaign bus speeding past, guys.

We interrupt this interruption to despise Justin Trudeau’s just-in racial demagoguery, accusing Harper of fomenting hatred against Muslims. Can anyone doubt the intent of a few Canadian-born converts to Islam to kill and to spread terror? Who’s playing the polarizing race card?

• • •

Now, the original top item for this piece.

Two representative West Vancouver views of the mail-in transportation plebiscite, running from next Monday till May 29:

Mayor Michael Smith, one of three Metro mayors voting no: “TransLink is being treated like a political football being kicked back and forth between the Metro mayors and the province. . . . I would suggest that decisions should be made locally. . . .

“How can anyone argue that by defeating the yes vote the consequences would be worse? In the past three years the mayors have had to deal with three ministers of transportation  . . . and still have no control over how the new money raised will be spent, as TransLink management does not report to the mayors’ council. . . . It is poor public policy and unrealistic to expect citizens to understand a complex issue such as transit funding.

“I believe that we do not have the right to ask taxpayers to pay higher taxes with no guarantee that the money will be well spent. If the vote on the referendum is no, then finally the province and local mayors will have to sit down and make changes to the governance of transit.”

Poll-topping Coun. Craig Cameron: “I am a yes. If there is a no vote, I believe we won’t get any meaningful transit upgrades for 5-10 years. The province will (wrongly) take it as a signal that Lower Mainland residents don’t want to pay for transit improvements. . . . The province will then take the money set aside for transit and apply it to other objectives. No significant changes will be made to TransLink’s governance structure and TransLink will not become any more efficient than it would have otherwise.

“In short, the worst of all worlds — no benefits and all of the same negatives.

“Moreover, if the province decides to proceed with all or part of the (necessary) improvements, we will pay for them through property tax and fare increases. . . . And from a West Vancouver residents’ perspective, the property tax increases will far outstrip the cost of the (0.5 per cent rise in) sales tax.”

Cameron doesn’t disagree with Smith’s points. But he’s a pragmatist. With a grin: “If a meal is put in front of you, eat it.”

• • •

My shy observations:

In a crude waltz of mutual back-scratching, Gregor Robertson, Greg Moore and Linda Hepner, mayors respectively if not respectably of Vancouver, Port Coquitlam and Surrey, connived to unseat North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton as head of the Metro mayors’ council. Which self-poisoned the yes well from the start.

Then there’s the yes team, the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition. It includes the Vancouver Board of Trade, B.C. Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Vancouver, Unifor (union) Local 111, the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association, the David Suzuki Foundation, Greater Vancouver Gateway Council, and others.

A key goal of this exercise is getting people out of their cars and on public transit. But Constant Reader will have noted the common thread linking these leaders and many of their members. They don’t take public transit themselves. They want other people to take it.

Less traffic would speed their way from Metro’s tonier homes, including on West Vancouver’s leafy slopes, to their important roles. Not to be unkind to the successful elites, bless them.

But many have designated company parking stalls. Others have business write-offs as they move to serious lunches and meetings. They don’t pay for their driving and parking. Taxpayers ultimately do. Thanks, I’m marginally one of the privileged.

Out of space. See next column. But here’s a teaser: Not one word of the heavy thinkers I’ve read has even mentioned the A-B-C of any merchandiser: The customers. And how to attract — not bully, demean, treat like stacked cordwood or store-window dummies — these and prospective transit riders. What an original idea, eh, yes side?

Trevor Lautens can be reached via email at rtlautens@gmail.com.

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