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The Globe and Mail

Lekstrom turns down TransLink relief funding

A SkyTrain car in Vancouver on May 6th, 2009.

Simon Hayter For The Globe and Mail/simon hayter The Globe and Mail

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom has turned down immediate funding relief for Translink, telling regional mayors they will first have to "bring the public along with them" if they want any new or expanded funding to pay for the public transit agency's budget shortfalls.

In a letter to mayors dated April 10, Mr. Lekstrom also told municipal leaders he will not entertain any funding changes until a new government audit of TransLink operations has determined if there is a way to close the projected $30-million gap with savings.

"We said no to any short-term relief until the audit is complete," Mr. Lekstrom said in an interview. "Hopefully the audit will find the money."

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In his letter, Mr. Lekstrom listed a series of proposals that will not be on the table: Money from the provincial carbon tax, additional fuel taxes or additional tolls. But he later said he would consider "road pricing" if municipal leaders can show there is public support.

He also did not rule out a regional carbon tax, he said later. But such an initiative would need popular support – not something that the provincial government, still singed by its introduction of the unpopular Harmonized Sales Tax, would have to wear.

"Don't bring us something the people you represent are adamantly opposed to," he said. "Because then the people want to point the finger at the provincial government for something the mayors' council has brought forward. It's their issue."

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B.C. politics reporter

Based in the press gallery of the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, Justine has followed the ups and downs of B.C. premiers since 1988. She has also worked as a business reporter and on Parliament Hill covering national politics. More

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