As the counting of ballots begins in Canada's first public vote on whether to finance expanded transit with a new tax, key players are considering what they would do whether it is the Yes side or the No side that wins.
"We have been thinking about how we would make sure we support either outcome as a province," Premier Christy Clark told reporters last week.
"Whatever happens, people in the Lower Mainland want more transit. I think everyone agrees with that. The question they are being asked right now is how do they want to pay for that transit."
Voting ended Friday in an exercise that saw Lower Mainland voters asked whether they would approve a 0.5-per-cent increase to provincial sales tax applicable in Metro Vancouver to help fund $7.5-billion in transit expansion over the next decade to help move people as the region's population increases.
Results are expected later in June, says Don Main, communications manager for Elections BC. He said more time is needed to count the votes because the agency is working with fewer staff than would be deployed for a provincial election.
On the Yes side of the transit debate have been the B.C. government, most of the region's mayors, environmentalists, unions and the business community.
The No side, energized by concerns about mismanagement in TransLink, the regional transit authority, has largely been personified by Jordan Bateman, B.C. head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
Ms. Clark promised the vote back in 2013 when her B.C. Liberals were facing a tough fight against the NDP in that spring's provincial election.
Ms. Clark, who divides her time between her Kelowna-area riding and a residence in the Lower Mainland, said she had voted Yes. But, she added, "I've stopped making hockey and election predictions so I'm not going to predict the outcome."
While the Premier is not making a bet, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he is "cautiously optimistic" voters would vote Yes.
Although a Yes result would provide key funding, Metro Vancouver mayors would still have to seek funding from Ottawa and make use of already committed provincial funding to pay for buses and other items on the transit agenda.
One key piece of transit Vancouver is hoping a Yes vote would help fund is a new subway across several kilometres of the city's Broadway corridor.
The last data released May 27 said the turnout was about 45 per cent – or 698,900 of more than 1.56 million registered voters. No further update is expected until the release of the final results.
"It's certainly a decent turnout, higher than municipal elections," Mr. Robertson told a news conference when asked about the numbers. "I'm still cautiously optimistic. I think it will be an anxious wait until the ballot count is done."
Mr. Robertson is not talking about a Plan B in case the vote goes against the mayors' plan.
The night she was first elected mayor last November, Surrey's Linda Hepner said she would build 10 kilometres of a planned 27-kilometre light rail system and have it running by election night, 2018 whether or not there was a Yes or No vote.
On Friday, Ms. Hepner said she was not backing down from that pledge.
She said the turnout suggests voters were engaged by the plebiscite, however she's waiting to see which way voters leaned. "I am not making any predictions," she said in an interview.
Mr. Bateman has also found solace in the turnout, suggesting motivated voters probably dismissed the sales tax. "We're feeling confident our No voters got out and voted," he says.
David Moscrop, a PhD candidate in the psychology of political decision making at the University of British Columbia, said the turnout suggests Metro Vancouver residents are engaged in the transit issue.
"Even if the 'No' side wins, the issue is unlikely to disappear. Transit is on people's radar now; it's on their minds and I suspect that each time a bus flies by them or the SkyTrain shuts down, a decent number of them are going to think about this plebiscite – either as a much-needed win for infrastructure, or a missed opportunity," Mr. Moscrop said in an e-mail exchange.