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

Aldergrove family ecstatic over child’s recovery

Jaylene Prime and her family ‘pays back’ with juvenile arthritis fundraiser

VIDEO: May Day parade in Fort Langley

Crowds pack the streets to view 96th annual edition of annual march

Video: house fire in Langley Township

Monday morning fire spread from house to trees

Fire at abandoned home for second time in over a month

Crews called out early Monday morning to blaze in Abbotsford

New mural in Abbotsford represents openness and community growth

Piece led by group passionate about youth development and promoting the arts

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

McPhee in boxing spotlight

‘Turmoil on 200th’ Pro Am Boxing event at Langley Events Centre

Fraser Valley Symphony ends 34th season

‘Romantic Rendezvous’ features Michelle Mares on piano on June 2

‘Find Your Fit’ at Aldergrove career event

Students and general community sessions set for Aldergrove Secondary

Arrest made in last week’s double shooting in East Van

Carleton Stevens, 37, is charged with attempted murder and remains in custody

Couple survives being buried in mudslide on B.C. highway

The couple, from Saskatchewan, were en route to Nelson when a tree fell in their path

‘So grateful:’ Injured Bronco hockey player glad he’s alive, works on recovery

Ryan Straschnitzki was badly hurt in the accident: a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and punctured lung

PHOTOS: Floodwaters rise and fall in Grand Forks

The flood-ravaged Kootenay-Boundary region begins to heal

Martin Mars waterbombers’ firefighting days are done

Wayne Coulson said his company still hopes to find a new home for the vintage aircraft

Most Read