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Delta's Jackson not pleased with Metro mayors' council vote outcome

Mayor Lois Jackson isn't pleased with the outcome of a vote that could see additional property taxes imposed to help pay for transit improvements.

Mayor Lois Jackson isn't pleased with the outcome of a vote that could see additional property taxes imposed to help pay for transit improvements.

Jackson, who chairs the Metro Vancouver board, is also on Metro's mayors' council, which this week voted on funding options for the proposed Evergreen Line. Jackson said Delta residents already being shortchanged by TransLink won't be happy about a possible $23 hike on their property tax bill.

"I voted against the motion. I support the Evergreen Line and we made that commitment a long time ago that it should be built. We were told at a previous meeting that a two cent gas tax would pay for the Evergreen Line," she said.

"However, the (Transportation and Infrastructure) minister (Blair Lekstrom), even though he was very cordial, said he would consider bringing in legislation in the fall so the gas tax can come in April of next year, but in order for us to get that commitment we have to commit to $23 on everybody's taxes."

The Evergreen Line, linking Burnaby, Port Moody and Coquitlam to the Lower Mainland's rapid transit network, has been much talked about but stalled because TransLink doesn't have its $400-million share of the funding required for the $1.4-billion project.

In addition to the Evergreen Line, the mayors supported a plan called Moving Forward that features other improvements, including upgrading SkyTrain and SeaBus stations, increasing SeaBus sailings and adding a B-Line service along King George Boulevard in Surrey.

To pay for it all, the mayors voted in favour a two cents-a-litre hike in the gas tax as well as a potential property tax increase of $23.

The proposed funding plan must go through public consultation before mayors vote on it this fall.

They initially refused to give TransLink money from property taxation on top of the property levy the transportation authority already receives. The mayors also agreed other long-term funding options could include a vehicle levy or other forms road pricing.

Jackson noted the $23 property tax hike is supposed to be a regional average, but she's asked her municipal staff to figure out what the hit would be in Delta.

She said people in outlying communities that don't have the services that exist north of the Fraser River and have to use a car shouldn't be penalized by paying as much as residents who have transit options.

B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins said the Liberal government is treating Lower Mainland commuters like cash cows. The former Delta-Richmond East MP noted the new gas tax would be another burden on drivers in the Lower Mainland that already pay the highest gas taxes in Canada.

On top of the provincial gas tax, there is the carbon tax, which went up again on July 1, and the "sky-high" parking taxes, he said.

"I believe the Evergreen Line is a good project, but I do not support how the Liberals are paying for it. Wasn't the original carbon tax supposed to pay for investments in transit? Didn't the Liberals raise parking taxes to provide TransLink more money? The Clark government is addicted to gouging anyone who drives a car or truck," said Cummins.

Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington also said the government should be diverting the original carbon tax toward transit, including the Evergreen Line.

"I support the Evergreen Line but there should be no supplemental packages because we can't afford them at this point, and I do not think we should be increasing property taxes for TransLink purposes, especially when Delta residents don't see absolutely any increase in service," she said.