B.C. government backs PST hike to fund transit
The BC Liberal government has announced it supports the “Yes” side in the upcoming transit referendum, and that the proposed PST hike may not apply to all goods.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the province backs raising the PST 0.5 per cent in Metro Vancouver to fund billions in new projects, but it won’t be funding any part of the “Yes” campaign.
“Provincial government funding will be dedicated solely to enabling and ensuring that the plebiscite takes place” Stone said in a statement.
The government has also tweaked the language of the referendum to read that the tax will apply to “the majority of goods and services” subject to PST, not all.
Stone said the province is working to determine whether some items may be exempt.
Premier Christy Clark previously said it would be up to the TransLink Mayors’ Council to convince voters to accept the hike, and it’s unclear whether she will personally push for the “Yes” side.
She was unavailable for comment on Tuesday, but in a year-end interview with CTV News last month she spoke cautiously about the referendum.
“If people vote yes, we’re going to take that direction and make it work,” Clark said.
The Premier’s office said Tuesday that Clark will be voting “Yes.”
A coalition of business, labour and environmental groups have already banded together to support the “Yes” side, highlighting the growing problem of crippling traffic congestion in Metro Vancouver.
The “No” side is being spearheaded by the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, which argues TransLink isn’t capable of taking on the $7.5 billion in transportation projects being proposed.
Jordan Bateman, the Federation’s B.C. spokesman, pointed to ongoing fare evasion and massive delays in TransLink’s Compass Card rollout as troubling signs.
“How do you trust this organization that can’t manage a $200 million fare gate project with $7.5 billion?” Bateman said.
The extra funding is intended for a number of long-promised projects, including the Broadway SkyTrain line, a new Pattullo Bridge, light rail in Surrey, additional buses on busy routes, general road maintenance, and more.
Only residents of Metro Vancouver will be voting in the mail-in referendum as the hike would only apply in that region.
The vote is expected to take place this spring.
With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Mi-Jung Lee