How to vote in the Metro Vancouver Transit Plebiscite, beginning March 16

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SkyTrain Public Transit Canada Line / Shutterstock

Beginning today, March 16, residents of Metro Vancouver’s 23 municipal jurisdictions will begin to receive their Transit Plebiscite voting packages in the mail.

Voting in this plebiscite is through a mail-in ballot, with ballots arriving in mailboxes between now and March 27.

The ballot question

The ballot asks approximately 1.5 million eligible voters in the region whether they are in favour of adding a 0.5 per cent Congestion Improvement Tax (CST) to items and services that are taxable under the 7.0 per cent Provincial Sales Tax (PST).

The question on the ballot is as follows:

Do you support a new 0.5% Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax, to be dedicated to the Mayors’ Council transportation and transit plan?

 

What’s at stake

If the new tax is approved (a simple majority of 50% + 1 is required), the provincial government will introduce the CST in 2016 to provide $250 million in new revenue on an annual basis to help cover the costs of the Mayors’ Council $7.5 billion plan to:

  • purchase 220 new and additional SkyTrain cars for the Expo, Canada and Millennium lines to increase capacity by 50 per cent;
  • extend the SkyTrain Millennium Line underground along the Broadway Corridor;
  • build a 27 kilometre long light rail transit network in Surrey;
  • introduce 11 new and additional B-Line rapid bus services across the region;
  • build a new seismically safe Pattullo Bridge;
  • increase bus service frequency along major routes, with frequency increased to every 15 minutes or less all day long;
  • increase night bus service by 80 per cent;
  • increase SeaBus frequency to every 10 minutes during peak hours and 15 minutes for the rest of the day;
  • and improve and extend the region’s cycling and pedestrian networks.

The tax is expected to cost households an average of $125 per year or about 35 cents a day. Proponents of the tax maintain that all funds raised will be managed by the provincial government, audited on an annual basis and spent only on the Mayors’ Council transportation plan.

A volunteer-based Public Accountability Committee, led by local businessman Jim Pattison, will also oversee the use of the funds.

Who is eligible to vote

In order to be eligible to vote in the Metro Vancouver Transit Plebiscite, you must:

1. be a Canadian citizen;
2. be 18 years of age or older on or before May 29, 2015;
3. be a resident of B.C. for at least six months on or before May 29, 2015;
4. be registered to vote in B.C.;
5. and live in one of the following Metro Vancouver municipal jurisdictions:

  • Bowen Island Municipality
  • City of Burnaby
  • City of Coquitlam
  • City of Langley
  • City of Maple Ridge
  • City of New Westminster
  • City of North Vancouver
  • City of Pitt Meadows
  • City of Port Coquitlam
  • City of Port Moody
  • City of Richmond
  • City of Surrey
  • City of Vancouver
  • City of White Rock
  • Corporation of Delta
  • District of North Vancouver
  • District of West Vancouver
  • Metro Vancouver Electoral Area “A” (including UBC)
  • Township of Langley
  • Tsawwassen First Nation
  • Village of Anmore
  • Village of Belcarra
  • Village of Lions Bay

How to vote

I am a registered voter:

  • Residents of Metro Vancouver who are registered voters will receive their voting package in the mail between March 16 and March 27, 2015.

I did not receive my voting package by March 27 or I am not a registered voter:

  • You can ask Elections B.C. to mail a voting package to you by calling 1-800-661-8683 or registering your eligibility online at elections.bc.ca/ovr. The deadline to request a voting package is midnight on Friday, May 15.

Follow the instructions on the voting package:

1. complete the ballot form;
2. complete the provided certification envelope and seal the ballot inside the certification envelope;
3. and seal the certification envelope inside the provided yellow envelope for return to Elections B.C.

How to submit your ballot:

Elections B.C. must receive your ballot no later than 8 p.m. on Friday, May 29. There are two options for ballot submission:

  • Option 1: Submit your yellow envelope into the mail.
  • Option 2: Submit your yellow envelope at one of nine plebiscite offices across Metro Vancouver that will be open beginning April 13. The plebiscite offices will also serve as locations where you can register and receive a voting package (all locations are open during mall hours, except on Sundays and holidays):
    • Capilano Mall (935 Marine Drive, North Vancouver)
    • Central City Mall (10153 King George Boulevard, Surrey)
    • Chinatown Plaza (180 Keefer Street, Vancouver)
    • City Square Shopping Centre (555 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver)
    • Coquitlam Centre (2929 Barnet Highway, Coquitlam)
    • Haney Place Mall (11900 Haney Place, Maple Ridge)
    • Lougheed Town Centre (9855 Austin Road, Burnaby)
    • Richmond Centre Mall (6551 No. 3 Road, Richmond)
    • Willowbrook Shopping Centre (19705 Fraser Highway, Langley)

Results announcement

Beginning on April 1, Elections B.C. will report the number of interim ballots submitted on a weekly basis.

The counting and reporting of the plebiscite results will begin after the close of voting at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 29. The process of counting is expected to last several weeks.

Key dates

  • March 16 to 27: Registered voters will receive their voting packages in the mail.
  • March 16 to May 15: Voters may ask for a voting package. The deadline to request for a voting package is midnight on Friday, May 15.
  • April 13: Nine plebiscite offices will open across the region. The locations will be announced at a later date.
  • May 29: The voting period and plebiscite offices close. Elections B.C. must receive ballots no later than 8 p.m. on Friday, May 29.

Key arguments by proponents and opponents:

  • ‘Yes’ side:
    • This is not a vote on TransLink’s performance.
    • Additional and improved transportation infrastructure is required to accommodate traffic and population demands – current and future. A rejection will delay the inevitable much-needed improvements by a decade and it could have negative economic repercussions.
  • ‘No’ side:
    • TransLink cannot be trusted due to its recent questionable spending decisions and over-inflated executive salaries.
    • Taxes to fund transportation in the region are already too high, with TransLink already raking revenues from gas sales, property taxes and parking fees.

Sample ballot

Image: Elections BC

Image: Elections BC

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Kenneth Chan Deputy Editor & Social Media Manager at Vancity Buzz. He covers stories pertaining to local architecture, urban issues, politics, business, retail, economic development, transportation, infrastructure, and anything else that makes a difference in the lives of Vancouverites. Kenneth is also a Co-Founder of New Year's Eve Vancouver. Connect with him at kenneth[at]vancitybuzz.com
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