Watchdog’s alternative funding plan falls flat in Surrey and Delta

Canadian Taxpayers' Federation is recommending money for new transit and transportation come from municipal growth revenues.

The mayors of Surrey and Delta (from left

The Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation’s (CTF) alternative plan for funding transit is getting a poor reception from local politicians who don’t like the vision much at all.

Jordan Bateman, the B.C. director for the CTF,  released his financing plan for regional transit titled No Translink Tax: A Better Plan.

The plan was put together with the help of a Certified Management Accountant.

Bateman has been at the forefront of working to reject a plan by TransLink to raise regional sales taxes by 0.5 per cent to pay for transit and transportation initiatives.

Instead, Bateman wants to pull the money from municipal growth, which he says is 4.8 per cent regionally.

As one of the country’s fastest-growing municipalities, Surrey’s revenue from growth is 4.82 per cent, or $18 million annually.

In the Bateman plan, Surrey would pay $1.7 million of that to Translink.

The “better plan” wasn’t getting a hot reception in Surrey or Delta.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said the plan is off the mark. She said revenue from growth is used for services such as police, fire and recreation centres.

“Which of those services would they like us to cut?” Hepner asked.

Chair of the city’s finance committee, Coun. Tom Gill, said Bateman’s plan is ill-conceived.

“This is absolutely ridiculous,” Gill said, when told of the CTF plan. “Surrey’s three times the size of Vancouver and one-third of our land mass is in the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve)… We have our own challenges.”

Revenue from growth, he said, is used to pay for the costs and challenges related to growth.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson agreed in an interview Thursday.

She noted the Bateman plan is completely unfair to a city such as  Surrey, because it’s growing so fast.

In addition, she noted, this region is suffering from the poorest transit infrastructure. Cities such as Richmond and Vancouver already have a viable transit system, she noted.

Asking Surrey to pay the lion’s share because it’s been ignored for years is unfair,” Jackson said.

“Do the Surreys of the world pick up the tab because they’re growing faster than other people?” Jackson asked. “I’m not so sure that that’s fair.”

She noted that places such as Delta, White Rock and Langley City have no developable land left, so they would be paying nothing towards the new plan.

In addition, she said that money from growth is required elsewhere.

“In principle, new growth should pay for new growth,” Jackson said.

Bateman said cities are using current growth revenues to pay for future growth.

“They’re actually violating their own principal of  ‘growth should be paying for growth’ by foisting this on current citizens,” Bateman said. “If this transportation plan is such an important priority for the mayors, then earmark some of that future growth towards it.”

Bateman said he’d like to see some “brave political leadership” at the local level rather than just imposing a new tax on citizens.

On Monday, Jan. 12, Surrey council unanimously endorsed a plan to promote the TransLink idea of creating a 0.5-per-cent Congestion Improvement Tax to pay for transportation.