The Future of the Region – Yes or No.

A few interesting developments on the Referendum front, and it has been a while since I wrote about it. Unless you have been living under a rock, or work in a phone bank for the BC Liberal party*, you are aware there is a referendum going on to decide how we will invest in transportation in the region.

We are less than two weeks from when ballots go in the mail, so it is a good idea for you to look into how you will vote, so you don’t lose your franchise. Elections BC recently released the full details of how the Plebiscite** is going to work. A few details:

If you were born before May 30, 1997, have been a resident of BC since November 29, 2014, are a Canadian resident and live in Metro Vancouver, you can register to vote online at the Elections BC website or call their 1-800 number (you need a Driver’s Licence or a Social Insurance Number). You will get a ballot in the mail. If you don’t get a ballot in the mail in March, you should contact Elections BC and request one. You have until March 29 to return your ballot. The Mayor’s Council set up this helpful graphic to show you the timelines of the vote.


Like my council Colleagues across the region, I have been busy with this campaign. As unique as the voting mechanism is, this is just an election campaign, and identifying your vote and getting it out requires a lot of organization. I have been talking to community groups, helping with phone volunteers to identify support bases, and helping develop the get-out-the-vote plan, etc. etc.

I’ve said before that democracy is not what happens on election day, but how we, as citizens, get involved between elections to get the most out of our elected representatives. If you think this referendum needs to be won, if you think we need to put the brakes on the cuts to transit service and enter a new era of transit expansion in our region, then I ask you – what are you doing about it? Get in touch with me, with the City of New Westminster, or the Mayor’s Council to see how you can help.

When I have time to be involved in the “air war”, I have concentrated on two things (an links below are to others doing exactly that):

1: Outline in as much detail as the audience needs about the myriad of benefits, tangible and otherwise, that this plan delivers to New Westminster and the region; and

2: Hit back aggressively at specific mistruths being propagated by a few very prominent members of the NO side.

One thing that always gives me a chuckle is the plethora of advice for how the YES side should be campaigning, mostly delivered by people loosely connected to the no side (for example, the wife of the guy who is coordinating the NO campaign for the CTF) and wrapped in sanctimony. We have been told, at times, to stop using scare mongering and stick to the facts; that we can’t rely on facts but should instead go for emotion; that we need to describe the plan in detail so people understand; that we need to simplify the message; that we need to appeal to “Joe Sixpack”, or “Students”, or that we should stop relying on “special interest groups”.

I thank them for the advice, but to me, the most effective message I have heard was delivered by Gordon Price at the PechaKucha New West event two weeks ago. It was an inspiring 6 minutes on the past, present and future of the region. After it ended, I thought “we need to get this on YouTube”. Turns out people (as usual) were way ahead of me, and a (slightly shortened, better produced) version has just been made available by the good folks at Modacity. If you do nothing else before you vote, take 4 minutes to watch this video***, if you want to understand what this referendum is really about:

Vote Yes. For nothing less than the future of the region as we know it.

*I received a phone call from a BC Liberal**** fundraiser on Wednesday evening. I allowed him to go through his script about balanced budgets and good times ahead before I asked him what the party was doing to encourage support for the Referendum that the Leader had called, and was (tacitly) supporting. The poor guy had not even heard that there was a referendum going on. He claimed to be in Burnaby (and I have no reason to doubt him, as he seemed to understand what TransLink was and claimed to watch Global News, so he wasn’t in Topeka or Bangalore). I made what I think was a compelling case for the reasons to support the Yes side, and he asked if the result of the referendum would be a deciding factor in the next election for me. I said no, but the leadership shown during the referendum definitely was. He thanked me for my time, and actually forgot to ask for money.

**Yes, this is a Plebiscite, not a Referendum. The differences are rather arcane. In most jurisdictions, the words are synonymous. In BC, they both mean “a vote on matter of public concern”. Where a Referendum is governed by the Referendum Act and “is usually binding on the government”, a Plebiscite is governed by the Elections Act and “may be binding on the government”. Remarkably, this vote is not being regulated by either, but by something called the “South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Funding Referenda Act”. Regardless, the Provincial Government changed the language from referendum to a plebiscite when the ballot was released, you can make up your own reasons why. Safe to say, whatever it is called, the results of this vote will be politically binding on the government, if not legally binding.

***Note the book at 1:03 in the video. None other than Charles Montgomery’s The Happy City. Nice touch.

**** Since I wrote that footnote*****, I have noticed that some of the strongest messages coming out on the YES side are coming from BC Liberal MLAs, so I am glad to give kudos to the members of the party who are seeing the importance of this vote, and are putting their political capital into it. We need more of this in the next month.

***** This footnote thing is getting out of hand.  

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