Fassbender downplays transit referendum rule

'Different day' as more federal infrastructure money on offer, says minister for TransLink

Communities Minister Peter Fassbender



B.C.’s minister responsible for TransLink showed signs Thursday the province might waver from its commitment to hold another referendum on any new transit tax if that’s necessary to secure billions of dollars in federal government contributions.

Peter Fassbender told the Surrey Board of Trade the province will aggressively lobby the new federal government for B.C.’s share of money for transit and other projects in light of the incoming Liberals’ pledge to make major infrastructure grants and the new federal infrastructure minister’s indication that a more generous funding formula may be coming.

When an audience member asked the minister if he still stands behind the premier’s promise that there be no increase in TransLink taxes without another vote, Fassbender said he wouldn’t give an unequivocal answer.

“It’s a different day today with a new federal government, with new opportunities. So we’re going to find out exactly what the federal government wants to do,” he said. “If we need to move quickly, we need to be prepared to move quickly.”

Speaking later to reporters, Fassbender denied he is pivoting away from the referendum promise, adding he needs to first understand the intention of federal ministers before funding discussions can resume with Metro Vancouver mayors.

“We’ll make those decisions as some of those other issues become clear,” he said.

This year’s transit plebiscite on a 0.5 per cent regional sales tax was crafted on the basis regional taxpayers had to raise a one-third share of major projects, with matching thirds coming from Ottawa and Victoria. It was defeated with a 61.7 per cent No vote.

A more generous federal grant could reduce the bite on regional taxpayers and make a new tax proposal more palatable.

Transit advocates have suggested an eventual move to road pricing could be exempted from the referendum requirement, or that a future plebiscite force voters to pick a new tax, without a none-of-the-above option.

The province has long urged the mayors to reconsider their opposition to raising TransLink property taxes, which would not trigger another referendum.

Fassbender said he and Transportation Minister Todd Stone have a list of projects they want the federal government to support.

They include the light rail ‘L’ line in Surrey, a Fraser Highway rapid transit line, the Broadway subway, buses elsewhere in the region, a third SeaBus and a Pattullo Bridge replacement – all of which were on the plebiscite ballot – as well as the province’s pet project: the replacement of the Massey Tunnel with a new bridge.

Fassbender reiterated he does not intend to reopen TransLink’s governance structure, adding mayors now select all the directors on the TransLink board except the two provincial government appointees.

He also urged business leaders to support and defend the often embattled transit agency.

“I know they’re trying their best,” Fassbender said of TransLink managers and staff.

“We need to support them. Yes, we we need to hold them accountable as we should hold ourselves accountable for those things when sometimes they don’t go right,” he said.

“But you know what? On the whole we’ve got a great system and we can make it much better by stopping the negativity and getting on with the vision the mayors have developed.”

Just Posted

Langley chamber of commerce CEO named executive of the year by Canadian chamber

Colleen Clark has nearly 25 years of experience in the chamber network

Spartans make it four in a row

Langley-based TWU womens soccer team keeps Alberta rivals scoreless

VIDEO: Rock and gem show a smashing good time in Aldergrove

Club marks 60 years with weekend show and sale

VIDEO: A moment to remember during day three of the World Lacrosse Men’s Indoor Championship

Diego Hernandez Valenzuela’s team lost, but he felt like a winner Saturday in Langley

VIDEO: Grizzly bears fight along northern B.C. highway in rare footage

Cari McGillivray posted the head-turning video, shot near Stewart, B.C., to social media

Over 200 Hotel Georgia hospitality workers join ‘open-ended strike’

Unionized workers at Hyatt Regency, Westin Bayshore and Pinnacle Harbourfront have also walked out

B.C. Lions hype-man marks 15 years of cheers

Crazy P cheers, chants, bangs his drum and spreads a message of love

Hiker rescued after spending night on Crown Mountain

North Shore Rescue spotted the woman by helicopter over Hanes Valley

PHOTOS: Steller sea lion with plastic around neck rescued on Vancouver Island

Rescue staff determined the plastic band cut the protected animal’s neck approximately two inches

B.C. VIEWS: School officials join fact-free ‘climate strike’

Students, public get distorted picture of greenhouse gases

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Iconic 90s TV show ‘Friends’ celebrates 25th anniversary

The iconic, decade-long television show aired its first episode 25 years ago today

Most Read