Simon Fraser University's Gordon Price is a former Vancouver city councillor and a longtime advocate for improved transit in Metro Vancouver.

The Bateman Strategy: Killing TransLink and the regional vision

Concerted attacks on transit will use every method possible to defeat funding referendum, with dire consequences for region

By Gordon Price

Not that I want to publicize Jordan Bateman (the local spokesman for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation) even more, since the media do enough of that already (and let’s face it, I get my fair share of coverage too) – but in the absence of leadership from local leaders, his strategy regarding the transit referendum may well prevail.

And what strategy is that?  Why, getting people to vote against their self-interest in order to effectively disable TransLink – and with it, the regional vision we have pursued for decades with considerable success.

Not, of course, that Metro citizens will intend to vote against more transit or a more sustainable region.  But thanks to Jordan’s strategy, that’s what will happen.

Here’s how the strategy works.

1. First, discredit government – in this case, TransLink, and the collective goods we pay for with taxes.  Ignore the larger purpose of the organization and concentrate on the ‘bureaucrats’, whom you can dismiss contemptuously.

2. To do that, use small examples, real or manufactured, to tar the entire organization.  Whether free coffee for staff, bonuses for executives, teething problems for Compass Cards, policing costs (or not enough policing), the installation of fare gates (or not installing fare gates), it doesn’t matter what the examples are – so long as there is a steady beat of criticism, amplified for and by the media.

3. Maintain that any new programs can be paid for by eliminating ‘waste, fraud and abuse.’  Never give credit for any instances where that actually occurs.  TransLink has already had three performance reviews and an audit, it has already saved millions in ‘efficiencies’ (often a euphemism for cuts) – but never mind.  Always maintain that spending is ‘out of control.’

4. Establish the bottom line as ‘No More Taxes.’  Do not ever get into a debate about the value and merit of what those taxes purchase.  Simply repeat, and repeat: NMT.

5. Suggest that voters can ‘send TransLink a message’ by voting for ‘none of the above’ on the transit-funding referendum.  It matters not that eliminating the entire administration of TransLink (about 4 percent of its budget) would barely pay for a few more bus routes, much less a multi-billion-dollar rapid-transit line.  Insist that cutting salaries and perks is a necessary condition (though never sufficient) before discussing new revenues.  At that point, simply assert that we’re taxed out, even if we’re paying less taxes or getting new services.

By aggressively attacking the organization so that those in favour of a new tax will have to defend it before they can argue in favour of its funding, you disarm the proponents before they even begin a ’yes’ campaign.

Meanwhile, time is running out – 442 days left til Nov 15 (though it’s possible that the referendum might be held in May or June) – and we haven’t even got the wording yet, much less leadership for a yes vote.

One wonders whether the CTF was instrumental in convincing the Premier to go with the referendum idea during the election since it gives them an ideal platform to pursue their agenda.  Better yet, blame for a No vote can be put on local politicians for their inability to convince the electorate.  And the subsequent cutbacks on local transit services as other sources of revenue decline thereby justify another round of criticism of TransLink.

It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Gordon Price is director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University. He blogs on transportation and urban issues at pricetags.wordpress.com. This was originally published on his Price Tags blog here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

ELECTION: Ryan Warawa to run for BC Conservative Party in Langley East

Son of late MP Mark Warawa is former president of provincial party

ELECTION: Langley Township councillor Eric Woodward will run for the BC NDP in Langley East

Will challenge another current Township councillor for the job

Tenor from Langley-based Trinity Western University joins Vancouver Chamber Choir

Rob Workman feels ‘blessed by these opportunities’

ELECTION: Wiens named Green candidate for Langley East

Said party offers “hopeful” alternative to NDP and Liberals

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Father hopes journey to aviation-safety program inspires hope

Former South Surrey resident Greg Sewell hasn’t given up on quest to mandate older-plane retrofits

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Most Read