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Candidates gang up on Liberals' TransLink referendum plan at all-party forum on transportation

Photo by Chris Lane

The all-party transportation forum was largely a polite, friendly affair; moderator Shauna Sylvester described the audience and the candidates as “very Canadian.”

But all the opposition candidates attacked one point: the BC Liberals’ plan for a referendum on TransLink funding.

Candidates from the four main provincial parties came out to Simon Fraser University’s downtown campus Thursday evening for an event called Next Generation Transportation, focussing on transport issues in greater Vancouver.

No to "wasteful" Translink referendum

In their election platform, the BC Liberals outlined a plan to leave it up to the electorate to decide how public transit would be funded in the region. Mary Polak, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure who represented the Liberals at the forum, explained that government officials would narrow it down to three or four funding options, before asking the public to choose between them. The referendum would coincide with municipal elections in November 2014.

All of the other candidates at the forum spoke out against the plan.

“We are elected to make decisions, no matter how tough they are,” said Harry Bains of the BC NDP, calling the referendum a “shirking of responsibility” on the part of the government.

Duane Nickull of the BC Conservatives called the referendum a “wasteful” plan, while Jane Sterk, leader of the BC Greens, didn’t like the sound of a “majority-rules forcing of opinion on a region.”

Bains said the answer to transit funding lies in the carbon tax revenue. “The money’s already there,” he said.

Photo of Harry Bains by Chris Lane

As to how the money should be used, Nickull -- who will be running against the premier in Vancouver-Point Grey -- was especially keen on the idea of building more trains. “When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a train driver,” he explained Nickull.

Stay in your community, travel less

Sterk took a more demand-oriented approach to transportation planning. She said British Columbians need to focus their lives “more in our own communities, so we travel less.”

The Greens hope their focus on strong, local communities can reduce the demand for all kinds of motorized transportation.

The Green party leader responded placidly to audience questions, but she did eventually take a swipe at the government’s attitude to fossil fuel extraction, calling it their “philosophy that we can dig up BC and sell it to China.”

Sterk, who is running for election in Victoria-Beacon Hill, also lamented the current direction of transportation development:

“What I hear over and over again is ‘roads and bridges, roads and bridges.’ That is old thinking. We need new thinking,” emphasizing the need for sustainable transportation that would decrease future dependency on oil.

Photo by Chris Lane

Many questions came in from Twitter, and you can check out a recap of the online discussion with a Storify from the event hosts.


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