Referendum poll shows slim lead for new transit tax

Survey finds tepid Yes support, distrust of TransLink strong among No voters (with interactive charts)

Anger with TransLink over SkyTrain shutdowns and other issues could sway the outcome of the transit tax referendum next spring.

A poll of Metro Vancouverites gives the Yes campaign a slim early lead in the upcoming referendum on raising the sales tax 0.5 per cent within the region to fund transit and transportation upgrades.

The Insights West poll found 52 per cent of respondents would probably or definitely vote Yes, while 39 per cent would vote No. Nine per cent were undecided or won’t vote.

But Insights West vice-president Mario Canseco said there were more definite No voters (24 per cent) than definite Yes voters (18 per cent), suggesting more entrenched opposition and less enthusiastic support.

“Support is very soft at this point,” Canseco said. “That is very, very problematic for the Yes side.”

Anger and lack of trust with TransLink are a major factor for opponents, the results showed, with 71 per cent of No voters saying they do not have confidence in the transportation agency to properly deliver the promised projects.

A similar number suggested TransLink should instead find other ways to fund transit expansion and 60 per cent suspect the regional sales tax, once created, would climb higher.

Supporters said they were voting Yes because of the need to address traffic congestion and service problems in the region, and said the promise of independent audits on how the new money is spent will increase transparency.

Canseco sees more potential for a No campaign that hammers TransLink’s failures to  gain ground than for Yes support to firm up and grow.

“The No side is motivated mainly by a high level of disagreement with the way TransLink operates,” he said. “That is very, very tough to change.”

He said mayors and other Yes campaigners are left promoting the promised upgrades and telling voters “You may be angry with the way TransLink was run or the difficulties on SkyTrain but if you vote No we get nothing.”

Mayors last Thursday unveiled the proposed PST hike to raise $250 million a year to fund – with federal and provincial contributions – a $7.5-billion expansion that would include a Broadway subway, light rail in Surrey, 11 new express bus B-Lines and a general 25 per cent increase in bus service.

RELATED:Metro mayors vote to hold transit sales tax hike referendumPST hike for transit may push Metro shoppers east into Fraser Valley

The level of support dropped to 47 per cent among drivers and rose to 69 per cent among transit users.

Canseco said that was in line with generally higher support among young voters (58 per cent) who are more likely to take transit versus older ones (44 per cent) who tend to drive.

“Young people see those benefits as something that is tangible,” he said.

“But if you’re a driver and you never go to the Pattullo Bridge, there’s really nothing here for you. You can talk about road safety and maintenance but those are things that have to happen regardless of the referendum.”

Asked if the concentration of support among younger voters – who generally have lower turnout rates in elections – means Yes support may end up even lower, Canseco said it’s too difficult to say because the spring referendum will be by mail-in ballot.

“This one is completely uncharted territory.”

He noted Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was re-elected last month on strong backing and turnout from younger voters who may also strongly support transit expansion.

SFU marketing professor Lindsay Meredith said TransLink is a stained brand and agreed anger over TransLink salaries and SkyTrain shutdowns is a strong threat to the Yes side.

“From a marketing stand point, they’ve run it into the ground so many ways I’ve lost count,” he said. “It’s hard to get out of that hole once you’ve dug down so deep.”

The poll also asked what new tax would be the best method to pay for the new projects. Thirty per cent agreed it was the proposed PST hike of 0.5 per cent, 16 per cent said a vehicle levy, seven per cent said higher gas taxes, eight per cent said higher property taxes and 39 per cent weren’t sure.

Meredith said that suggests the mayors have chosen well and their sales tax hike may be just low enough to eke out a win.

“But I think they’re very close to the breaking point.”

The online survey of 601 Metro residents was carried out Dec. 12-14 – immediately after Metro mayors unveiled their referendum question – with a margin of error of plus or minus four per cent, 19 times out of 20.

REFEReNDUM POLL |Create infographics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This Crescent Beach home, located at 12505 22 Ave., was subject of a police search warrant June 18. (Google image)
Civil Forfeiture Office alleges Crescent Beach home used to launder money

Court documents request the home, and $85,000 to be turned over to the government

Surrey firefighters battle a house fire near the 70A Avenue and 126A Street intersection early Sunday morning. According to a witness, it appears that the occupants were able to get out without injury. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Fire causes extensive damage to Surrey home

Occupants able to escape without injury: witness

Preliminary results indicate a Surrey-Cloverdale win for the NDP’s Mike Starchuk. (File)
Mike Starchuk leading Marvin Hunt in Surrey Cloverdale

MAP: B.C. provincial election results for Surrey-Cloverdale

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Most Read