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B.C. moves to end Metro Vancouver transport tussle

Transportation Minister Todd Stone - Black Press
Transportation Minister Todd Stone
— image credit: Black Press

Transportation Minister Todd Stone is promising Metro Vancouver mayors new authority to set priorities for transit and road expansion, and a new deadline to decide if they want more funding sources.

Stone announced Thursday he will bring in legislation this spring to give local governments authority to set policy, decide on fares, deal with customer service issues and sell assets in the system. He called on the mayors to work with the current TransLink board, which has that authority until the law is changed.

"The ball will be firmly in the court of the mayor's council now," Stone told reporters in Vancouver.

Stone released a letter he sent to the mayors' group Thursday, giving them the option of avoiding a referendum on new funding sources in conjunction with next November' municipal elections.

The province "is willing to extend the referendum window to no later than June 30, 2015," as long as the mayors agree on new projects and costing by June 30 of this year.

If that deadline goes by without agreement on the basis for a plan, the referendum will be delayed to the 2017 municipal elections and the province will withdraw its offer to pay the costs.

NDP transportation critic George Heyman said Stone's announcement lacks details of the promised new authority, and repeats an offer for the chair and vice-chair of the mayors' council to join the appointed board that now controls policy.

The mayors were "blindsided" by Thursday's announcement and offered two seats on the board, which they rejected two years ago because they want full control, he said.

"The minister continues to threaten the mayors and hold sticks over their heads and give them deadlines," Heyman said.

Stone's offer includes a promise to provide one third funding for a replacement to the aging Pattullo bridge, which is designated as TransLink's sole responsibility.

Stone previously told municipal officials they can avoid a referendum if they decide to use their existing authority to raise property taxes to fund new roads, bridges and transit.

 

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