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article imageOp-Ed: Translink referendum no vote consigns Vancouver area to chaos

By Marcus Hondro     Jul 2, 2015 in Politics
The one million more humans expected to become part of the Greater Vancouver metro area in the next 25 to 30 years have been consigned to transit chaos by those living there now. That is, in effect, the result we learned of in the transit vote.
Transit referendum fails
Thursday's referendum was on increasing the sales tax a meager 0.5 percent but the right wing anti-tax crusade convinced voters their best interests is to save a small amount of money now so they can have a great amount of transit headaches in the future.
The no side took 61.7 percent of the vote, so it was a resounding victory. The bombastic (though oddly inarticulate given his position and stridency) Jordan Bateman of the self-serving Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) in essence convinced voters to vote against their own self-interest.
Bateman has, as you might expect, cited accountability in government spending and wasteful projects as his and his group's mantra. You know, the same gobbledegook that comes out of the mouths of the Sarah Palins and Donald Trumps of the world, not to mention Rich Coleman, who Bateman once worked for.
It is the stuff of America's Tea Party. Another way of saying they do not want anything akin to a government that is socially responsible. They think they live in a vacuum, it appears, and are of the opinion that preventing government from seeking tax revenue to aid the community is a moral stance.
Sure, we must be vigilante with how we spend our money but whining about accountability over and over again is simplicity at its worst. It's a no-brainer that money must be well-spent, but the merits of this plan are strong. Yes, spending the people's money comes with a sacred responsibility but that doesn't mean it should not be spent if the project is needed, as is very much the case here.
The costs of saying no
Never mind that other major cities, including Seattle and Los Angeles, have successfully used a sales tax to fund needed improvements in their transportation systems. Never mind that 21 mayors and other leaders in the region supported the tax to help fund transit improvements.
And never mind that police chiefs and fire chiefs of the regions supported it, as did unions, business groups, First Nations groups and environmental groups. They all knew the terrible costs of saying no.
Now let us pause parenthetically here to note that bike riders will bear a cost. Unhappily for those who pedal to work and for recreation they can now look forward to the dangers of even more traffic and of facing greater pollution, an issue for all of us but more so for them.
Most studies still show riding is healthier than sitting on an overcrowded, slow-moving bus, yes, but they also show that riding in traffic is harmful, in particular to your lungs and heart. "Our findings suggest that short-term exposure to traffic may have a significant impact on cardiac autonomic function in healthy adults," a group of Canadian scientists wrote in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in July of 2011.
And pity drivers who will spend even more time in their vehicles and pity the poor working stiffs who must commute, especially from one region to another, by public transport. Already commuters deal with line-ups and congestion, problems now certain to get worse; less time with the children will be one of many negative outcomes.
"This (referendum) result likely means years of delays before any new transit comes online — with the unfortunate and predictable increase in road congestion and pollution as our population grows," Iain Black of the Vancouver Board of Trade said Thursday. "Our economy and businesses will continue to suffer without improvements."
No plan moving forward
Naturally, these bold leaders of the no side do not really have an alternative, other than to criticize past initiatives and intone that Translink should be a fiscally responsible organization, etc. etc. They speak of solutions that are piecemeal, solutions that will bog down in a quagmire of endless meetings at all level of government.
It will take years to sort all of this out, and eventually similar solutions to those now defeated will be enacted with money found elsewhere, like property taxes, which will really make folks happy. When the solution is finally agreed upon the price will be far higher than it would have been had we begun acting now.
In the meanwhile, our public transportation system will flounder and newcomers and the rest of us will have a difficult time getting around. In the midst of it all, Jordan Bateman et al will continue to do what they do best — blame, criticize and serve themselves.
And here's this: in the final analysis their flaccid arguments against spending are the stuff of inertia. Writer M. Scott Peck came up with the simple notion that the only way to solve a problem is to solve the problem. But that's not the way the no side goes about things. No, they insist that the government must not be allowed to make decisions on how best to serve the community that elected them.
After all — we can't actually let them govern, can we?
Which brings to mind this: why have them do anything? Why spend money to replace a broken stop sign if you don't believe the government is capable of prudently doing so? No sense keeping up the infrastructure. Too costly! And rather than improve government and be a part of a solution — argue to shut the region down!
Welcome to the chaos.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about tranlink referendum, no vote wins, Gregor robertson, jordan bateman, Public transportation
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