Mayors get power in TransLink referendum

The province has tossed responsibility for the upcoming TransLink funding referendum back to the mayors of Metro Vancouver.

Transportation minister Todd Stone said the mayors will be given more power to plan and control TransLink, but they will also have to essentially run the referendum.

“The ball will be firmly in the court of the mayors’ council now,” said Stone, in a press conference in Vancouver Thursday.

Stone outlined what that will mean in practical terms.

Currently, the Mayors’ Council only has authority over appointing the TransLink board of directors, and to vote on the budget and plans presented to them.

The mayors will soon have the power to actively plan for the transportation future, Stone said.

“This is indeed what the Mayors’ Council has been asking for,” said Stone.

They will be expected to come up with a 30-year vision by June of this year, along with ways of funding that vision.

That plan will be what is taken to a referendum for the region, possibly as soon as this November when the municipal elections are held.

However, Stone also said that the mayors will have the ability to push that date back if need be, with a new deadline of June 30, 2015 at the latest.

While Stone said the province will pay for the referendum, he made it clear that everything else will be up the mayors. They will have to both create and defend their plan.

There is a possibility that no referendum could be held at all.

The referendum will only be needed if the mayors need new funding sources that require provincial approval.

That would include thing such as a vehicle levy, road pricing, or new bridge tolls.

If the mayors can come up with enough funding through existing taxing powers – mostly property taxes and some gas taxes – the referendum could theoretically never take place.

The mayors have been asking the province for more funding for years now, as a financially strapped TransLink has had increasing difficulty funding its operations. The mayors have also been extremely reluctant to increase property taxes any more.

Stone also said the province will fund up to one third of the replacement of the aging Patullo Bridge.

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