A week after Metro Vancouver mayors agreed to the final funding piece to get the Evergreen Line transit project moving, Premier Christy Clark has tossed cold water on the proposal to raise gas taxes to cover the municipal share of the SkyTrain expansion.
Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom appeared to give the mayors his blessing last Wednesday for the funding proposal, thanking them "for their hard work in coming up with a plan to fund their share of the Evergreen Line."
On Monday, Ms. Clark told reporters she is concerned that the proposed two-cents-per-litre fuel tax would be unaffordable for B.C. families.
"When British Columbians say that they're not really excited about paying more gas taxes, I get that. Because my focus as Premier is how do we make life more affordable for people rather than less affordable," she said.
Last week, after meeting with Mr. Lekstrom, the mayors were celebrating the end of a two-year-long stalemate with the province. "It's really great for us to be acting in concert with the minister," said deputy chair Pamela Goldsmith-Jones at the time.
Mr. Lekstrom was not available for comment on Monday, but Ms. Clark said she'll give the mayors more time to come up with a funding proposal that fits with her preference to cap or lower the tax burden on B.C. families.
"So I'm going to give them a little more time to think about some of these issues..."
District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton, chair of the Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation, predicted some mayors could walk away from the project if the province won't back their funding proposal to raise their $400-million share for the project.
The province had, until last week, pushed the municipal authorities to raise the funds through higher property taxes.
"If comments are made by the provincial government that are going to undermine the motion we put forward last week, then of course that would have an impact on my colleagues," Mr. Walton said.
"Plan B is, don't expand your public transportation system, live with what you have got now," he said in an interview. "I'm not hearing the public wants that, either."
The provincial and federal government have each committed about $400-million to the Evergreen Line, an 11-kilometre connection between Coquitlam and Burnaby that has been on the drawing board since the 1990s.
The mayors' proposal, called "Moving Forward" aims to pay for other improvements, including additional SeaBus sailings, express bus service south of the Fraser, and SkyTrain and SeaBus station upgrades.
If approved, the fuel-tax increase would be implemented in April of 2012. Under the proposal, property-tax hikes would take effect in 2013, unless a new long-term revenue source is implemented before the end of 2012.
The mayors' council is made up of representatives from each of Metro Vancouver's 21 municipalities, as well as the Tsawwassen First Nation, and works with TransLink's board of governors to run the transportation authority.