Transit plebiscite fails; no side receives 61.68% of votes

The results of the 2015 transit plebiscite were released yesterday, announcing that the plebiscite has failed.

"Initially, of course we are a bit disappointed to see the results released earlier today. However, we’re not discouraged because we don’t believe the results to be necessarily a rejection of transit or the need for improved transportation in Metro Vancouver," said AMS VP External Jude Crasta.

The plebiscite would have approved a 0.5 per cent tax hike to finance improvements to the Metro Vancouver's public transit system, including a Broadway subway line, a new Pattullo Bridge and more buses and roads.

In total, 757,183 votes were cast through a mail-in ballot. The Yes side received only 290,151 votes, or 38.32 per cent.

Werner Antweiler, an associate professor at the Sauder School of Business, said that the result was what he expected.

“I was not hopeful that a referendum of this nature would pass simply because in those cases where it’s succeeded, it had required lots of ground work and years of preparation and getting the election sort of ready,” said Antweiler. “In Vancouver, we had [an] abbreviated schedule for this referendum. Essentially, the mayors had to get the question defined and then advertise in very, very short period of time.”

When asked what he thought contributed to to the result, Crasta noted that there were a lot of factors and while it is somewhat “premature to say.... I guess it was just that the public did not necessarily agree with the mechanism that was being proposed to operationalize the plan, but more will be evident as the days progress and we have a proper analysis [later]."

According to Antweiler, the No campaign pointed to inefficiencies in TransLink as well as high salaries for the company’s top executives but this is a “red herring”.

“The key reason, I believe, is that people did not see the tangible benefits that would get something out of this infrastructure in a very direct way,” said Antweiler. “We have this problem that where the infrastructure projects are built it’s roughly local in Vancouver and in Surrey and … a lot people in, say, Delta and Langley said well, 'why am I voting for this and paying more for it?'”

Vancouver voters were split almost evenly on the plebiscite, while 66 per cent of the voters in Surrey said no.

According to Crasta, next steps from here include working with existing partners in order to advance other transit improvements.

"The AMS does have policy on advocating for the Broadway corridor… [specifically] transit projects and relieving congestion along that area, so that’s the number one improvement that we’ll be pushing for," said Crasta. "That’s more of a long term project. In the short term, we are also advocating for measures to alleviate current congestion by means of more buses, improved service and more service routes."

When asked whether the provincial government could have taken any actions to turn the result into a yes vote, Antweiler said, “they would’ve needed a lot more time, and a lot more ground work, and a lot more convincing explaining …. why this form of taxation actually is a beneficial way of doing this. Whenever you raise money, you have to spend some money to raise it.”

This story was updated on June 3 at 3 p.m. to include comment from Werner Antweiler