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Metro Vancouver mayors suggest new transit sales tax

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Metro Vancouver mayors have fired back with a plan for how they think the public transit funding shortfall should be dealt with.

The Mayors’ Council and the province have been trying to agree on a long-term strategy for how to get TransLink’s finances back in order.

In the release, the mayors say they have considered all options for funding the transportation system.

“A small incremental addition to the sales tax. The intent of that is to improve  the movement of goods and people and transit,” says Richard Walton, chair of the council.

The sales tax would be no more than 0.5%.

Walton says people who don’t use transit may not realize how the service is of benefit to them. “It’s not possible for anyone to take themselves out of the equation and just because you don’t take transit and you only drive doesn’t mean you’re not dependent upon efficient goods and people throughout the region,” says Walton.

BC’s Transportation Minister Mary Polak says it’s too early to support a bump in sales tax without details and consultation with the public.  “We’ve all seen what happens when you go to the public with a new taxation idea and you haven’t done the work with the public. For them to understand what it’s for, understand the potential benefit, and to build the kind of support for that… it’s really not detailed to understand yet whether or not it would be supportable.”

In other words, Polak says there is still work that needs to be done. “We’ve asked the mayors to form a more specific consensus around immediate funding needs.  For example, the Broadway-Corridor, SkyTrain expansion in Surrey. We need to get down to consensus around which one would go first.”

Walton is meeting with the minister next week.

Two other short-term recommendations include a vehicle levy and using carbon tax revenue.

Longer term options are mentioned as well including the exploration of land value capture. They also mention introducing a comprehensive road pricing system.

Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation reaction

The head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in BC says “enough is enough” when it comes to increasing the sale tax.

Jordan Bateman says people aren’t happy with the HST, and this is no different.

“Now  to come back to taxpayers and say, ‘Well, we want another half a point to fund TransLink’ when there’s absolutely no link between TransLink and what you buy in a store, it’s ridiculous.”

He’s hoping the transportation minister says “no” to what he calls another “tax grab.”

“We just fought a four-year campaign on the HST — on a sales tax because people, taxpayers, were sick and tired of paying more in taxes.”