The Metro Vancouver transit plebiscite results are in. Although people in Metro Vancouver voted against a small tax increase for transit and transportation improvements, we can all take away some positive lessons from the campaign.
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This result doesn't mean that people rejected transit and transportation improvements. Advocates for a No vote shifted voters' attention to issues with TransLink, Metro Vancouver's regional transit authority, and off of the transportation projects proposed by the region's mayors, making it impossible to say why people voted no.
We know there's support for better transit and transportation options in Metro Vancouver. That's why 145 groups joined the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition, the biggest and broadest coalition of its kind in B.C.'s history. That support doesn't end with a No vote.
We should remember that 38 per cent of people voted yes for better transportation and transit. That's significant. They voted for better transit to benefit the environment, economy and public health. They recognized that supporting transit and transportation improvements is the single most effective regional response to climate change. Campaigners for the No side themselves voiced support for transportation improvements, even if they didn't agree about how to achieve them.
While we at the David Suzuki Foundation accept that voters have spoken, we're concerned about the effect this result will have on the region's livability. Years of delays are likely before any new transit comes online — with the unfortunate, predictable increase in road congestion and pollution as Metro Vancouver's population grows. It's incumbent on all levels of government to find funding for transit and transportation improvements to keep the region livable. The provincial government and the Mayors' Council must show leadership to find a way forward to fund the projects that Metro Vancouver desperately needs.
The David Suzuki Foundation would like to thank the organizations, supporters and volunteers who worked for a Yes vote, along with everyone in Metro Vancouver who voted on this important issue. It was a long campaign and we knew it wouldn't be easy to translate this complicated issue into a simple Yes or No decision.
One thing is certain and that is our commitment to transit solutions as one of the best ways to address climate change. We will continue to support research and advocate for transit improvements for Canada's large urban areas. Traffic gridlock does not have to become the new norm and emissions from transportation do not have to continue to rise.
We look forward to the innovative solutions that will lead the way to a more sustainable future.