Delta mayor takes middle road on transit referendum

Lois Jackson denies she's the fourth No mayor and is in neither camp on the Metro Vancouver sales tax vote

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson says she's neutral in the Metro Vancouver transit tax referendum.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson won’t say how she has voted in the transit tax referendum but she rejects suggestions she is now on the No side.

Delta council decided against financially supporting the Yes side and instead requested public feedback. It found 60 per cent of the 200 respondents indicated they’d vote No, while 10 per cent leaned toward Yes and 30 per cent were undecided.

Jackson’s neutral stance has led some other Metro mayors to conclude she is now the fourth ‘No’ mayor in their ranks, joining West Vancouver’s Michael Smith, Burnaby’s Derek Corrigan and Maple Ridge’s Nicole Read in opposition to the proposed sales tax increase.

“No, I’m straight down the middle,” Jackson said in an interview. “I think it’s up to the people to decide what they want. In my community, people don’t appreciate being told how to vote.”

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Basic information on the plan and the plebiscite went out to Delta residents with utility bills at a cost of $5,000 to the municipality. In contrast, Vancouver, Surrey and New Westminster councils are spending up to $200,000 each to bolster the more than $6 million in Yes promotion by the mayors’ council.

Jackson was absent for the vote on the Metro mayors’ transit vision last June, saying later she supported it, and voted last December to go to referendum on the 0.5 per cent regional sales tax.

The Delta mayor said she is not recanting that vote.

The proposed sales tax option was the best choice available to the mayors compared to other sources such as a vehicle levy, she said.

“I believe the plan is probably the best plan that we can find at the moment,” Jackson added.

Jackson said the Yes side has been hurt in Delta by opposition from other Metro mayors to the province’s plan to replace the Massey Tunnel with a new bridge – broadly supported in Tsawwassen and Ladner – and by TransLink’s refusal to reinstate direct buses to Vancouver that now connect to the Canada Line instead.

While there’s little in the plan for Delta, Jackson noted most of her city’s residents travel elsewhere in the region and improvements in other cities will help them get to their destinations.

She acknowledged the broad opposition to a new tax but said she hopes her constituents carefully consider the issues from both a local and regional perspective.

“The downside of not having a Yes vote is that it will be a long, long, long time before we get anything else. I hope people consider this when they’re voting.”

Jackson said she believes the public would be more supportive today if all the mayors’ deliberations about crafting the transit plan and which tax source to use had been thrashed out openly, and not behind closed doors.