Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore is chair of the Metro Vancouver regional district board.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore is chair of the Metro Vancouver regional district board.

Metro mayors aim to regain grip on gas tax nozzle

Cash source for TransLink could go to regional district projects

Metro Vancouver politicians want to retake control of how federal gas tax transfers are spent, ending an arrangement where TransLink automatically gets the money for transit upgrades.

Until now, the TransLink board has decided how to spend the $120 million a year from the 10-cent-per-litre fuel tax that’s collected by Ottawa and returned to the region.

“We feel that the gas tax should go to the regional district and then the regional district should decide which projects that should¬† be used for, as long as that meets certain critieria,” Metro board chair Greg Moore said.

Metro Vancouver faces billions of dollars in expenses in the coming years two new sewage treatment plants and a new waste-to-energy plant.

Carving away some of the money TransLink gets could dramatically increase the pressure on the next provincial government to negotiate new revenue streams for TransLink.

But Moore denied the Metro request is an attempt to “play politics” or that TransLink will necessarily lose out.

“We¬†might still choose that it all go towards TransLink, but we just feel there should be greater flexibility,” Moore said.

He said the issue is part of a larger problem of how to deliver more sustainable funding for cities.

The old arrangement of automatically funneling the money to TransLink has been in place since 2005 and Metro politicians say it was fine when they also controlled TransLink.

But that changed in 2008 when then-Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon replaced elected reps with a professional appointed board.

Metro mayors since then have challenged the new board’s spending priorities and complained about their lack of influence.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan argues TransLink has repeatedly done the provinces’s bidding by funding government priorities like faregates through the gas tax or its other assured revenue sources and then leaving more pressing transit needs like the Evergreen Line dependent on the mayors agreeing to raise taxes.

“We have a very controlling provincial government that wants as much as possible to control the funds sent to British Columbia under the gas tax,” he said.

Corrigan predicts friction over the issue may subside if the next provincial government also puts elected civic leaders back in charge of TransLink.

Metro still needs provincial and federal approval to regain control of the gas tax transfers.