Provincial Minister of Transportation Blair Lekstrom has told the Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation not to count on the carbon tax or additional fuel taxes to fund TransLink projects.
"As we go forward, we need to acknowledge that some form of property taxes will continue to be an important source of funding for TransLink," Lekstrom said. "To that end, I suggest the Mayor's Council explore mechanisms to capture the increase in land valuation that results from public transportation infrastructure.
"I am unwilling to consider any new funding tool for TransLink that involves the provincial carbon tax," he added. "I believe that taxpayers are at their limit for paying additional fuel taxes."
Nor will the provincial government change its tolling policy.
The mayors of Surrey, White Rock and Delta expressed disappointment with Lekstrom's response.
Last month the Mayor's Council - comprising 21 local mayors and one city councillor - sent Lekstrom a letter seeking the provincial government's support on several motions it passed concerning TransLink.
The mayors want more say over TransLink's budget and called for a graduated vehicle registration fee and a new carbon tax, or some kind of additional fuel tax to fund TransLink rather than resort to increasing property tax.
The graduated vehicle registration fee would be based on engine size, fuel consumption and emissions rating.
If the mayors want to explore that route, Lekstrom said, "They've got to gain the support of the public they represent."
But he suggested it might be a hard sell as taxpayers feel "they're already paying enough." Lekstrom also shot down the mayors request for more money for themselves, or, as their letter put it, "for remuneration in a manner consistent with Metro Vancouver to be funded within the Mayor's Council funding envelope."
Lekstrom said he was "somewhat surprised" by this request for more compensation.
White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin and Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said the mayors' remuneration request wasn't aimed at putting more cash in their own pockets but rather to help fund more meetings so they can better analyze transportation issues.
"We're not looking for bonuses on this thing," Baldwin said.
He found Lekstrom's reply to the mayors, in general, to be "a little disappointing."
Lekstrom told the mayors that while he recognizes the need for their council to meet when required, "increasing remuneration is out of step with taxpayers' expectations at this time, especially when the Mayors' Council and TransLink are looking for new funding sources."
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, who at press time was attending an international conference of mayors in Geneva, Switzerland said she doesn't support a vehicle levy and maintains "there shouldn't be any increases whatsoever" regarding the remuneration question.
Watts said the city of Geneva paid for her airfare and hotel. She's one of 14 mayors who were invited to the conference.
She said she's disappointed Lekstrom won't agree to a "fair and equitable tolling policy." Watts is also against increasing property tax to fund TransLink.
"We can't," she said. "We're back to square one again."
Jackson agreed. Property tax, she said, was never intended to be used for funding TransLink. She does agree with Lekstrom that the public has no appetite to pay more in fuel tax.
"I think we're at the max," Jackson said. "We've got to find a better way." But, she argues, proceeds from the provincial carbon tax should be used to fund TransLink rather than be poured into general revenue.
As for the governments' current tolling policy, Jackson said nobody's using those roads because "the toll is too high."
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