Since I have been gone, I have particularly enjoyed the Evergreen Story Arc.
It all started with this story. It reads like good news: The “funding gap” finally filled, the Mayors and the Minister of Transportation finally coming to an agreement, time to start breaking out the shovels and ceremonially turn some sod (yet again). Rumour has it Richard Stewart even dusted off his gold-plated shovel for the announcement. News too good to be true? Of course.
This was, unfortunately, a result of credulous reporting of a news release completely lacking in context, and complete failure of the reporter to ask any questions about the “facts” being presented (or if they were asked, the answers were edited out of the final report). Even from my semi-secluded state, it occurred to me that this agreement was going to require the Province to pass an increased gas tax as requested by the Mayors, presumably some time between the HST referendum and the much-anticipated Provincial Election, or approximately coincident with a Municipal election. What are the chances of Premier McSparkle™ and the Mayors going for that? And was a $0.02/L gas tax going to be enough?
Then the full TransLink news release came out, and a few more details were available. Apparently,“the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation and the provincial government have agreed on a way to provide $70 million in additional annual revenue”, subject to some public consultation. This included the $.02/L gas tax in 2012, and…umm… something else, maybe property taxes, maybe something else… by 2013. So, really, they kind of agreed on part of a plan to fill “the gap”, and as for the rest, well, we are right back where we started. But still, at least they all agree, right?
Well, apparently not . Within days, the mayors are either starting to line up and say they don’t support this plan, or are reluctant to comment on whether they voted for it or not. So again, this plan can only go forward with “public consultation” during an election year, and they won’t even publicly acknowledge if they voted for or against it? Not promising.
At least we know where Grampa John Cummins stands. He wants Evergreen to be built, but doesn’t want to pay for it with taxes, because taxes are evil. Sounds like Harper’s plan to buy attack jets… if we pretend it doesn’t cost money… maybe it won’t? Thanks for coming out, John.
So TransLink and the Mayors, and the “opposition” are all unsatisfied, maybe the good news to be gleaned out of that very-fast-to-tarnish golden news release was that the new Minister of Transportation is finally getting this problem fixed, and the Province is committing to building the train promised to Premier McSparkle’s™ old neighbourhood (back before it was her old neighbourhood and she was busy dropping out of SFU). Except that the Premier has made it crystal clear that she is not going to vote in a new tax between the HST vote and the next election. No way. Whatsoever. Or maybe she will.
That’s leadership you can believe in.
UPDATE: This story keeps on giving. Mayor Watts is uncharacteristically sounding like the voice of sanity here, while Grampa Cummins proves he still doesn’t get it. After reading Watt’s’ comments, it appears Gramps has decided that the increase in operating funds TransLink needs can be found by taking it out of the operating funds of TransLink. You can’t argue with that logic.
I haven’t heard anyone put the 2 cent gas tax in perspective. For the average driver in Canada (see Stats Can numbers), it works out to about $28 a year. That $28 is about two-thirds of what the average Canadian spends per week on gas (at $1.33/L). Or, alternately, it is slightly less than the cost of a book of 10 2-zone bus passes: a week’s worth of commuting for most transit users.