Trade Talk – the magazine of the BC Building Trades – recently published this article on why the Metro Vancouver transit plebiscite vote is important to building trades members – like those of BC Insulators Local 118 – here’s what they found. And we encourage you to vote Yes for jobs, better transit and transportation and a better economy and environment.
The BC Building Trades and the BC Federation of Labour have joined with other union, business, environmental, student, health and community groups in the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition – which now has over 145 member organizations!
The transit plebiscite vote is also about construction jobs
With the big industrial projects still off in the future, transportation infrastructure in the Metro Vancouver area could provide a lot of construction work…but only if the upcoming transit plebiscite passes.
How much of this work will go to the members of the BC Building Trades?
Based on past experience, it is clear that unionized construction workers will be working on these projects. More importantly, all construction on public projects goes through a bidding process so it will be up to unionized contractors, working with their unions, to win those contracts.
How soon will we see improvements?
New buses would be the first noticeable change but the light rail system to Surrey is scheduled to be completed in 7 years, and the Pattullo Bridge in 10.
You’ve probably heard a lot of talk already, and a lot of misinformation. Here are the facts so you can encourage your family, friends, and neighbours to vote yes on their mail-in ballots.
The BC Building Trades and its affiliated local unions are backing the Yes side on this plebiscite because they feel it’s best for their members and their families.
Transit referendum facts
This 10-year, $7.5 billion plan (with much of it going to new construction) would bring dramatic improvements to the larger cities as well as municipalities on both sides of the Fraser River. The plan includes:
- replacement of the Pattullo Bridge
- $36 million/year for maintaining and upgrading the road network
- new SkyTrain lines (2 in Surrey and along the Broadway Corridor)
- upgrades to the existing and older SkyTrain lines
- 13 new or improved transit exchanges
- 2,700 km of bikeways, including 300 km of fully traffic-separated routes
- a 25% increase in bus service with hundreds of new buses (including an 80% increase in night-bus service)
- 11 new express bus routes
- a 50% increase in SeaBus service
- improved HandyDART service
- improvements to the West Coast Express Service
Big picture benefits
- The plan will maintain our carbon footprint even as we grow by more than 1 million people.
- It will save about 400 lives and 8,000 serious injuries.
- Transit users on the busiest routes will save 20 to 30 minutes per day, drivers on the most congested routes will save 15 to 20 minutes.
- Moving goods and services on less congested roads builds a stronger economy with more jobs.
- When complete, 70% of people will live within 5 minutes of transit running at least every 15 minutes.
Quick answers to misguided remarks
“The real problem is TransLink. We should just get rid of it.”
Criticizing TransLink is fair game, but TransLink governance and management aren’t on the ballot. We can build more public transit or face increasing congestion. Either way, it’s the taxpayers who will pay.
“Everybody’s going to shop in Abbotsford to avoid the half a percent tax.”
The proposed tax will cost the average Metro Vancouver household .34/day or $125/year, so a $1,000 flat screen would cost $5 more. On motor vehicles, the provincial government has decided the sales tax on vehicles will be based on the owner’s home address, not where it is purchased.
“The provincial and federal governments should be paying for this.”
No argument there. The plan includes asking the provincial and federal governments to provide funding support as they have in the past. They will be asked to provide between $4 billion and $5 billion for capital projects such as the Pattullo Bridge replacement, Broadway SkyTrain corridor, and new SkyTrain lines. BC has now said it will contribute its share if voter say Yes.
“There must be other options.”
The Mayors’ Council looked at tolling, distance-based fees, an increase to the carbon tax, and annual vehicle-registration fees. A.5% increase in the provincial sales tax in the region was seen as the least distasteful option for taxpayers, and most efficient to implement and administer.
With an increase in the sales tax, everyone pays (including residents, businesses, and visitors to the region) just as everyone benefits from the transportation and transit system.
“We’ll be stuck with this tax forever.”
There is no expiry date on the tax, however taxes do go down as well as up. Former Premier Gordon Campbell cut personal income taxes for the rich as well as the poor by 25% and cut corporate taxes. And the federal GST went from 7% to 5% in 2008. The PST is controlled by the provincial government. And it is important to remember that the provincial government, not the Mayors’ Council, ordered this referendum.
“What assurances are there that the tax dollars won’t just go into TransLink’s general fund?”
The new tax will generate $250 million annually. Those tax dollars will go into a dedicated fund that will be audited annually by a committee led by businessman Jim Pattison. Regular public reports will be issued on how that money is being used to pay for the projects that were promised.
“We should put this off until later.”
Every year that we delay makes the problem worse. It’s not possible to meet tomorrow’s transportation needs with the level of service we have now.
“What happens if the referendum fails?”
If the No side is successful, we can expect increased traffic congestion which will reduce our air quality, affect people’s health, further cut into family time, and hurt our economy.
You should have received your mail-in ballots by late March. If not, you can call Elections BC to get a new ballot at 1-800-661-8683 or you can go online at Elections BC to register – the deadline is May 15 to get a replacement ballot.
Please make sure that everyone you know understands the issues at stake and then fills out and returns the ballot by May 29.