Metro Vancouver mayors spent $5.8 million to push Yes vote

14 firms got transit referendum campaign funds from mayors' council

Host Bill Good

The Metro Vancouver mayors’ council spent $5.8 million provided by TransLink in an attempt to swing more area residents to the Yes side in the referendum on increasing the sales tax to pay for more transit.

The money financed a bombardment of media advertising, robo-calls, mailouts and street canvassing to try to reach voters.

The largest expenditure – $2.3 million – was spent on media advertising, but voter contact was a close second.

The disclosure released by the mayors’ council details payments to 14 firms providing public relations, communications, strategic or other support.

More than 840,000 voters were robo-called to participate in one of the 15 telephone town halls conducted by mayors. The Yes campaign says 151,000 actually participated.

The request from the mayors was approved by the TransLink board of directors.

No campaign leader Jordan Bateman said the mayors’ disclosure still under estimates the Yes campaign’s war chest because it doesn’t count at least $1 million worth of staff time or in-kind contributions by municipalities such as Surrey, Vancouver and New Westminster, or other money and effort expended by the Yes coalition.

The No campaign spent less than $40,000 with the largest contribution coming from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Bateman’s employer. “Whatever the result, we stood up for everyday people and made our case to the voters without wasting millions of their dollars like the mayors did,” Bateman said.

Voters were asked through the mail-in plebiscite if they approve a 0.5 per cent sales tax hike within Metro Vancouver to fund a $7.5-billion package of improvements, including new rapid transit lines in Vancouver and Surrey, and broad improvement in bus service.

Ballots that were received by May 29 by Elections BC are now being counted and a result is expected by the end of June.