Last spring, after a lot of debate, promotion, campaigning and handwringing, Metro Vancouver residents said "no" to a 0.5 per cent increase to the PST to pay for transit improvements.
I wrote about it back then. I was dead set against it. There were so many problems (which don't really seem to have been solved yet) and so much anger, it's no surprise the plebiscite failed. We were told, "This isn't a referendum on TransLink." Sorry, it's a referendum on whatever I darn well want it to be on. That was the problem from the start.
At the end of my column, after all my reasons to vote "no," I said I was voting "yes." I had more than a few people tell me I was nuts. How could I endorse handing more money over to an inefficient system? Don't they get enough from us already?
I fully admit, the "no" vote got the right attention. There was a recognition that residents wouldn't be pushed around. Local politicians need to listen to the public. We can all put away our pitchforks and torches, the populous has been heard.
Fast forward to today. Road pricing is back in the headlines. We'll get our new bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel, big bow and hefty toll ncluded. There's still talk of tolling bridges and roads. My argument to vote "yes" still stands - they will get the money from us, one way or another. The only thing holding them back now is who will get blamed for raising taxes, the municipalities or the province?
While I didn't like it, I still believe that a half-point increase in PST is the fairest way to go.
If you don't drive, you are likely taking transit already. If you do have a car, you pay gas taxes. The popular mantra is get the rich to pay for it. Since the PST is a consumption tax, the more you have, the more you spend, the more you pay. So the rich will pay more. Maybe there could be a rebate program for lower income families to offset the additional PST, like there was for the HST.
We all benefit from our roads.
Your food has to get to the store, the police and fire department have to get around, hydro workers have to drive around to keep your lights on, etc. If you think you don't benefit from our roads because you don't drive, think again.
Tolling individual motorways, bridges or highways is not a balanced approach to the larger, area-wide problem. In that case, there are winners and losers. If you only toll bridges, anyone between the Fraser and Burrard Inlet rarely pays. Yet they still benefit from those crossings, just not directly.
Place a price on highway driving will only force people onto side roads. Put a cost on major thoroughfares like Granville or Oak Street? Neighbourhood side streets will become the preferred choice. Want to know how to avoid Vancouver's road pricing? Pretty soon, there'll be an app for that. Just don't touch your phone while you are driving.
We will be paying some form of road tax. It just depends how it will be collected and who we will blame for introducing it.
There's "no" doubt about it. Brad Sherwin, MBA has over 25 years' experience in marketing, public relations and business strategy. He is currently the director of marketing for a national non-profit organization.