Vancouver's three civic political parties all say they're prepared to back a Yes vote in the transit plebiscite coming this March – a surprise for some who weren't sure where city council's non-governing parties would land.
But Councillor George Affleck, with the minority Non-Partisan Association, is kicking off the tripartisan agreement with a motion set for council's first meeting, urging everyone to support a resolution that calls on the mayor to establish a broad coalition to work on a Yes vote. The motion also directs staff to urgently report back on ways to make the vote, being held March 16 to May 29 by mail, a success.
The plebiscite will be asking Lower Mainland residents whether they agree to a special half-per-cent sales tax, the proceeds of which will be used exclusively to fund a set of projects agreed to by regional mayors. Those include a subway in Vancouver along Broadway that would extend the current Millennium Line from Clark Drive to Arbutus Street, a network of light-rail lines in Surrey, a new Pattullo Bridge, a third SeaBus for North Vancouver and 11 new rapid-bus lines in suburban areas.
Mr. Affleck, whose party sometimes sounded lukewarm or even dubious at times about the Broadway subway during the recent civic election campaign, said he is prepared to work with the mayor to get a successful vote.
"It's not been an easy decision. I have been vocal about problems with taxes," Mr. Affleck said. "But this tax is very transparent. We'll see where the money comes from and where it goes. And for the long-term prosperity of our city, this is key."
Green Party Councillor Adriane Carr, who also seems skeptical about the Broadway subway during her campaign, said she's prepared to support a Yes vote in the plebiscite.
During the campaign, Ms. Carr had talked about her preference for a streetcar-type system, something that would cost less and not drive development pressures as much as a subway would. As well, she's not keen on the idea of funding transit through a sales tax, which hits lower income people harder.
But she said a subway is a sensible idea for the central part of Broadway to Arbutus Street, which is a dense corridor that functions as Vancouver's second downtown.
"With those reservations [about the sales tax and a possible extension of a subway line west of Arbutus at some point in the future], I'll be supporting this," Ms. Carr said.
That was all welcome news to Vision Vancouver Councillor Geoff Meggs, whose party made the Broadway subway and a Yes vote in the plebiscite a key plank in its campaign. "I think that's great news. It undoubtedly will help," said Mr. Meggs, who has been the main Vancouver politician working with regional mayors on the overall 10-year plan. "It is a noticeable shift for the NPA."
Throughout the region, councils and business groups are starting to firm up their support or opposition to the transit sales tax. The mayors of Maple Ridge, West Vancouver and Burnaby voted against their 18 mayoral colleagues at Metro Vancouver who are supporting the plan and tax.
But the B.C. Chamber of Commerce and individual chambers, such as the one in Maple Ridge, are supporting it.
One of the key arguments from average residents against the sales tax is that TransLink is badly managed, with overpaid executives and management incompetence that has caused a two-year delay in using new electronic fare cards in the system.
But Mr. Affleck said that's a separate issue from funding transit.
"I don't think we should let the whole TransLink question let us get off focus. We have a problem along Broadway today that we should have dealt with 10 years ago."