Thursday, 11 July 2013

That darned Translink referendum.


Over the last few weeks there has been considerable discussion in the media about the BC Liberals’ plan to hold a referendum on potential revenue sources for TransLink at the same time as the municipal elections in November 2014.

There’s opposition to this plan.  Metro Vancouver mayors are opposed.  The NDP are opposed.  Commentators are opposed.  As Yul Brynner might say, “Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera!”

It’s funny, but every time I hear these critics I think: I wonder how many of them also opposed the HST?  And in particular, I wonder how many of them opposed the HST by saying, as many HST opponents did, that  “the BC Liberals just rammed it down our throats without telling us they were going to do that.”  

Remember that?  The problem with the HST was not so much whether it was good or bad tax policy, it was that the BC Liberals “sprung it on us” as a sort of post-election surprise.  Worse, still, the BC Liberals had actually sent off a couple of mid-campaign letters to special interest groups saying they had no intention of introducing the HST, only to change their minds after the election.

So, well, like, maybe it would have been different if the BC Liberals had just included an HST promise in their 2009 campaign platform?

Well, let’s have a look at page 18 of the BC Liberals 2013 election platform:

The B.C. government and Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council have been working together to find solutions for TransLink’s funding challenges.

However, in order for these solutions to have legitimacy and taxpayer agreement, they need to be tested by the electorate who, ultimately, will be paying for them.

Today’s BC Liberals will:

Work with the Metro Vancouver Mayor’s Council and TransLink to identify possible sources of funding for transit improvements. Any new revenue sources would then be subject to a referendum to be held at the same time as the municipal elections in November 2014.

There it is, in plain English, a promise to hold a referendum on potential revenue sources for Translink.  In an election platform.  For the election we just had.  In which the BC Liberals were elected.

Now, I’m actually not sure why any individual opponent of this referendum thinks they know better than the voters on this issue.  I don’t particularly care what the NDP think; presumably they thought this was a bad idea when it first surfaced, and today, even though the electors rejected them and their ideas, they still think that having this referendum is a bad idea.  No doubt they feel that way about all the ideas they had which the voters clearly rejected in May.  So far, I haven’t seen the NDP change their position on anything post-election.  So much for "learning" from their defeat.

But when I hear all the other criticism about this referendum proposal, it’s hard not to smile.  There are those darn BC Liberals, actually intending to keep an election promise and the world’s just full of critics.  Probably mostly the same folks who complained four years ago about the absence of a political platform commitment to introduce the HST are now the folks complaining that the BC Liberals show every intention of keeping this promise.  Sometimes we wish you had made a promise; sometimes we wish you hadn’t.  You gotta love politics.

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