Metro’s toughest vote may be transportation referendum

Much will depend on how the question is worded.

By: Mario Canseco

As residents of Metro Vancouver ponder their options in the municipal election, it is important to remember some of the things we are not voting for next Saturday. There was a moment, late last year, when it seemed that the referendum on transit funding, a brainchild of the provincial government, would happen in conjunction with the municipal balloting. Now, this vote is scheduled to take place next spring, at a time when mayors and councils will enjoy fresh mandates.

An Insights West survey conducted last month found that transportation is the second-most important issue facing residents of Metro Vancouver (at 19 per cent, just below housing at 22 per cent).

The area’s two biggest municipalities each have one concern that is literally off the charts: Practically half of Vancouver residents are worried about housing, and most people in Surrey are preoccupied with crime.

However, transportation is the most important issue for residents of the North Shore (34 per cent), Delta, New Westminster and White Rock (29 per cent), the Tri-Cities (28 per cent) and Langley City and Langley Township (27 per cent).

Age breakdowns tell the story of where these concerns over transportation are coming from. Metro Vancouverites over the age of 55 are more likely to cite transportation as the most important issue facing their municipality (24 per cent, compared to 18 per cent for those aged 35-to-54 and 15 per cent for those aged 18-to-34). This group encompasses people of varied ideological backgrounds, from drivers in West Vancouver to commuters in Port Coquitlam. Any chance of a victory in the referendum hinges on finding a way to communicate effectively with these would-be voters.

The referendum on transportation poses tough challenges. The first one, particularly important for people who measure public perceptions, is the actual question that will be used. The responsibility over the final question appears to be in the hands of Metro Vancouver’s mayors (although judging by the B.C. Ferries flip-flop by Transportation Minister Todd Stone within the past 48 h