Province must find funding for transit, Township mayor says

Jack Froese says improvements will cost more following rejection of sales tax hike

In the wake of the no side's victory on a proposed transit improvement tax

The provincial government must find another source of funding for transit improvements now that voters have rejected a proposed sales tax increase, Township mayor Jack Froese told council during Monday night’s regular meeting.

“I’m as committed as ever to being a partner in building new transit and securing service improvement across the region and in Langley, but we will need the B.C. government to start coming to the table with new funding sources to meet that need and prevent major service cuts,” Froese said during his regular mayor’s report.

Afterwards, Froese told The Times that improvements to transit must be made.

“It’ll happen in time,” Froese predicted.

“But it will cost us more.”

Langley City mayor Ted Schaffer said he and Froese will be meeting Surrey mayor Linda  Hepner today (Wednesday) to discuss their options “south of the Fraser.”

“We have to go back and discuss [funding] with the province to see where they’re at,” Schaffer  said.

Schaffer told The Times it appears some federal funding might be available for transit.

The Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation has given the provincial government six months to find another source of funding and fix the way TransLink operates.

If there is no progress “on TransLink accountability and [the] funding gap by the end of 2015, the Mayor’s Council will be forced to reconsider its role within the TransLink governance structure,” states the resolution passed by the council on July 2, the same day the results of the transit plebiscite on the proposed 0.5 per cent sales tax hike were disclosed.

The resolution also warns a property tax increase is not an acceptable alternative.

The proposed tax that would have funded $7.5 billion in upgrades over 10 years was rejected by 61.7 per cent of all voters in the region.

The margin against was higher in Langley Township where 74.49 per cent voted no, and in Langley City, where residents voted 72.29 per cent against.

The mayors never wanted the referendum and repeatedly said something as crucial to the region as transit expansion should not go to a public vote.

They had previously extracted a promise from former Premier Gordon Campbell to allow a new transit revenue source.

But Premier Christy Clark reneged and promised in the 2013 provincial election any new tax source for TransLink would have to be approved by local voters.

Left with only that path to new funding, mayors agreed last year to the plebiscite and chose a hike in the provincial sales tax from 7.0 to 7.5 per cent within Metro.

– with files from Jeff Nagel