This weeks column for 24hrs Vancouver: Transit tax’No’ vote sensible

This week’s topic: Is the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s argument to vote no in the transit referendum persuasive?

My duel partner begins with a great idiom this week, sage advice that warns against passing over something workable, in the quest for something perfect.

However, when it comes to the proposed transit tax, the No Translink Tax team has done well to date showing why Metro Vancouver residents should avoid “throwing good money after bad” – the mayors’ proposal is far from perfect. I don’t completely agree with the solution the no campaign has outlined, but I do think they’ve done an excellent job of addressing the elephant in the room the yes side wants you to ignore.

TransLink is the organization that will be making the decisions and expenditures with the funds received from the proposed transit tax. The only foolhardy move is to pretend that its record of accountability and transparency shouldn’t be under examination when it comes to the administration of taxpayers’ money.

Much like political campaigns leading up to an election, the No TransLink Tax team has been releasing examples of TransLink waste and questionable spending bit by bit for impact. Helping their argument is that there is no shortage of examples, but even more alarming is the questionable management decisions that lead to that waste.

Read Brent Stafford’s columnhere:

In many cases, the money spent can’t be recovered – economists refer to this as a sunk cost. It’s money that’s gone for good. Poodle on a pole? Paying rent on empty buildings you sold at a loss? Those costs are not recoverable. A savvy businessperson knows the amount of sunk costs should never dictate decisions on future investment, but sadly, government and Crown corporations often get caught up in what is referred to as a sunk cost fallacy…

READ the rest of this weeks Duel, comment and vote now at:


9 thoughts on “This weeks column for 24hrs Vancouver: Transit tax’No’ vote sensible

  1. When BC MLA’s, Translink executives and Municipal governments make some sort of sacrifice first, I might consider voting yes. Until then, no thanks. That would include pay cuts, pension cuts, severance pay cuts and a severe restriction on travel.

    The Yes side keeps stressing the great things that will be done, but never mentions this tax money won’t fund much of anything. The Translink wish list still needs BC and Federal government money which hasn’t even been committed. The Translink, over-paid executives will continue to throw money away on useless things and when this .05% tax is gone they’ll come back begging for more.

    They already collect a tax on all property in Metro Vancouver, which increases 3% every year, a fuel tax of 17¢ on every litre, a 21% parking tax and a $1.90 levy on every Hydro bill and that’s not enough. A NO vote is the only way the translink set-up might get changed.


  2. The Link Between Obesity, Transportation and Land Use
    “…I think the healthcare benefits of increasing our ability to walk, bike and take transit – every transit trip involves more walking than any driving trip – vastly outweigh the terrible burden of an extra 0.5% sales tax. If we still believed in cost-benefit analysis (nobody has paid me to do one of those in the last twenty years) then we could show that the costs of paying the tax for more transit would be more than made up in the savings in healthcare costs alone….We don’t want this plebiscite or this sales tax either, but it is the only game in town, and it has to be won if motordom and sprawl are to be defeated. And if our waistlines are to start shrinking and our health to improve.”

    Transportation Referendum: Lessons Learned from the Front Line

    Pushing the button
    “Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers is making a big fuss about the number of times CMBC bus drivers push the button which records “fare not paid”. He thinks that the loss of fare revenue is such a big issue that it justifies voting NO in the upcoming referendum….I thought it might be helpful to actually work out what the size of the problem might be…Average Fare on Translink was $1.86 in 2012… and the size of the business…$1.41 billion. 2,762,363 button pushes multiplied by $1.86 is a revenue loss of $5,137,995.10….according to Jordan Bateman we should not try to increase transit spending in this region because Translink records a 0.36% revenue loss from fare evasion on its bus operations….a lot of button pushing does not happen, especially on the 99 B Line which has all door loading. So maybe the revenue loss is closer to 0.5%. Big deal….Concentrating on fare evasion was what lead to the Compass/Faregates fiasco. Far more is being spent than than will be recovered once the system is actually implemented. And that is not Translink’s choice – it was one imposed by the province.”

    Metro mayors vote to hold transit sales tax hike referendum
    “…As usual Translink came in for a lot of criticism about its lack of accountability (as though that were their fault) and their apparent reckless spending. No one mentioned the many audits, consultants reports and comparative studies that have been done over the last few years most of which came from independent sources, usually highly paid accountants, all of which found that Translink performs as least as well and in some cases much better than transit systems of similar size across North America….”


  3. From the 2012 efficiency review, and looking at the decisions made since then, it’s clear to me th decision making process has not given frugality and higher priority, nor has it tightened budgets…. starting with executive pay.

    ” it is important that TransLink ensures that every dollar spent gets maximum value.

    To do so, it should tighten budgets to encourage fiscal tension and discipline in how it delivers its services.

    It needs to become more cost focused by placing higher priority on frugality and productivity in its decision-making criteria.”


  4. The larger question is: How long can annual increases in government taxing, spending & service expansion (of any kind, not just transit) go on in our new ‘no-growth-in-real-terms’ world? Tax bases are not expanding. Good-paying middle-class jobs are pervasively disappearing. People increasingly live from paycheck to paycheck and save or invest nothing. Debt loads are rising everywhere. It truly looks as if all the “economic activity”, hustle-and-bustle, investing-only-for-yield and rising prices (even when our Leaders tell us there’s “no inflation”) generates no real increase in our standard of living. Low oil prices are going to hit B.C. VERY hard…highly-paid oil and gas industry grunt labour have been BIG SPENDERS! And that will soon also hit the government tax take…

    You can bet, though, that governments will not rein in their spending as they should. The LAST thing any government likes to do is downsize, cut back, economize, shrink. And we should be re-thinking the whole concept of annual spending and pay increases for the public sector altogether…in fact it is reasonable that the next wage negotiations with unionized employees should centre around how much of a cut they will take in order to help out the public.

    We’d better get ahead of the curve…something bad this way comes.


    1. Hi all, posting this email from a reader here, at her request! These are her comments:

      ” I like that your posts in the 24 hour free paper are always for the people and for the public. Most postings by yourself seem to be in ways to help out the little guy. That being said, I heard about your disapproval of the translink tax increase. If you are against the tax increase as I am, please reiterate this in next issue’s paper.

      In addition to the already increasing fares, the buses are never able to interconnect with each other, making it difficult to catch a route if you have 2 or more buses along the way. They are constantly hiking fares and not putting out more buses as they should; only in rush hour time zones, and it is ridiculous that Vancouverians should pay zones at all. In places like Toronto and other suburbs, it is all the same zone, and this is as it should be.

      Lastly and most importantly, is that most of our handicapped and senior citizens rely on transit as transportation. So why is it then, that transit cannot even bother to provide public washrooms in times of having to wait for your bus? In all my 15 years as a bus commuter, not one skytrain stop has provided public washrooms which I find tragic, and then they want us to pay more?

      I could go on and on, but I feel that my 2 main pointers – already higher than normal fare hikes, the extra zone cost, and last of public washroom service are good starters why I feel increased tax is a ridiculous proposition from Translink. To say nothing of crappy busdrivers and overcrowded buses, and lack of buses in suburbian areas – mainly on weekends, and after rush hour time zones – but I digress.

      Please feel free to add this to your blog. Hope you can bring this to the attention of people in ways that I cannot.”

      There you go K.C. !!


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