Business Brawl

Angry words fly over this month’s transit referendum

by Jacob Parry

A curious fight has broken out in the ranks of the usually harmonious pro-business chorus over whether to support a 0.5 per cent tax increase to pay for transit improvements in the Lower Mainland, as proposed in a referendum that concludes this month. On the one side are most of the region’s mayors, developers and big business groups; on the other side are the trenchantly anti-tax Canadian Taxpayers Federation and more circumspect Canadian Federation for Independent Business. A look at how it all breaks down:



Regional Chambers of commerce (minus Langley)

FACE: Iain Black, president and CEO of the Vancouver Board of Trade

Why: Congestion. “Every minute we lose in traffic or passed up by an overcrowded bus is a minute we’re losing with our families, or a minute of lost productivity at work.”

Proviso: There’s concern about how TransLink will spend the money. Surrey Board of Trade’s Anita Huberman argues that, whatever the vote outcome, the province needs to make TransLink more accountable and change its governance structure.


Retail Council of Canada

FACE: Greg Wilson, director of government relations (B.C.) Why: The retail group says it is supportive of the need for new infrastructure to “(bring) our goods, customers and employees to our stores.”

Proviso: The council’s support is contingent on the 0.5 per cent tax being integrated into the PST, which the government promised in February it would do. A separate tax, argues the council, could cost retailers up to $50,000 to implement.


Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Face: Jordan Bateman, B.C. director

Why: “Until TransLink reduces its waste, we shouldn’t give them any more money,” argues the anti-tax crusader.

Proviso: The CTF believes that the Lower Mainland, and its far-flung suburbs in particular, need better transit. Their proposal is to earmark 0.5 per cent of future municipal revenues to that end.

Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce

Face: Kristine Simpson, president

Why: The Langley chamber fears a “leakage of investment and consumers into Abbotsford and the U.S. to avoid a regional tax.”

Proviso: The chamber supports the

concept of mobility pricing, in which drivers

pay for their use of roads.

48 The number of business associations, trade unions, NGOs and municipal governments that have endorsed a YES vote