THE BLOG

Metro Vancouver Transit Referendum: Time For The Yes Campaign To Hit 'Reset'

03/12/2015 07:36 EDT | Updated 05/12/2015 05:59 EDT
Ted's photos - For me & you/Flickr
Took a trip and never left the farm. Well a sky train ride from Vancouver up valley to New Westminster anyway. A Skytrain Mark III model is entering the New Westminster station. SkyTrain is the rapid transit railroad system of Greater Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. SkyTrain has 68.7 km (42.7 mi) of track and uses fully automated trains on grade-separated tracks, running mostly on elevated guideways, which gives passengers views across the city and helps SkyTrain to hold consistently high on-time reliability. It also uses the world's longest cable-supported transit-only bridge, the Skybridge, to cross the Fraser River. The system has a total of 47 stations on three lines. The Expo Line and Millennium Line are operated by British Columbia Rapid Transit Company under contract from TransLink (originally BC Transit), a regional government transportation agency. The Canada Line is operated on the same principles by the private concessionaire ProTrans BC under contract to TransLink, and is an integrated part of the regional transport system. NEW WESTMINSTER: -The name “City of New Westminster” was chose by Queen Victoria in 1859 after her favourite part of London – Westminster. -The site of “New Westminster” was chosen in 1859, partly for military reasons, as it was on a steep hill on the north side of a wide river – thus more easily defended. -New Westminster was the first city in Western Canada, west of the lake head (the Great Lakes). In 1860 New Westminster became the first city in Western Canada, west of the lake head (the Great Lakes) to have a locally-elected municipal government. -New Westminster was selected the first capital of British Columbia in 1859. In 1866 the colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island united as “British Columbia” and the capital of the Colony of Vancouver Island, Victoria, was made the capital of the newly amalgamated colony.

A few weeks back I wrote about my experience of working on the ill-fated 1992 Charlottetown Accord "Yes" referendum campaign, and provided some so far unheeded advice to the pro-transit tax side.

Metro Vancouver's mayors, I argued, must humble themselves with the voters in order to see the world as they do. Furthermore, the yes campaign must be painstakingly transparent about ALL aspects of their plan -- as in how they will raise revenues, and how they will spend it.

I am still convinced that real openness is the mayors' last best hope for victory.

Premier Christy Clark, in a shrewd political move, made the mayors masters of their domain by requiring them to seek public approval for new taxes. We now have a cohesive transportation plan and a scheme on how to fund it. Chalk one up for Clark that this happened at all.

With their support in free fall, it is time for the Yes campaign to hit the "reset" button.

This means no more costly consultant reports or boring YouTube videos that have no resonance with anyone riding the system or stuck in traffic. No more announcements about the expanding yes-side bandwagon or celebrity endorsers (why do I think that George Clooney or Gwyneth Paltrow are waiting in the wings to back the mayors' plan?).

Please, no more gloomy and patronizing newspaper columns or blogs criticizing No-side voters. They only serve to strengthen the opposition.

And stop making absurd insinuations that the No campaign is part of a global right-wing conspiracy. In fact, stop talking about the No-side campaign altogether.

Why do I think the Yes side can win? Of the dozens of conversations I have had about the congestion tax, the opposition to voting yes is surprisingly soft. I am convinced that most voters are seeking a reason to back the tax, and failing so far.

Because public opinion surveys have already identified voters' concerns, the Yes side has all the information it needs to re-launch a successful campaign.

The Yes Campaign: Plan B

It might be the mayors' plan, but pollsters tell us the public does not trust these elected leaders to deliver it up. The most prominent among them was even singled out as a "colossal dud" in selling the plan. So the politicians must take a step back and new spokespeople must take their place.

An important first step will be to consolidate the two Yes campaigns. The Mayors' Council and Yes Coalition are running separate campaigns that should be merged with one credible leader from each of the political right and left.

Vancouver Board of Trade CEO Iain Black has been hands-down the most convincing voice of the yes side so far. Next to him should be Gavin McGarrigle, B.C. director for Unifor 111, who has performed well in public during recent labour disputes.

Then they must take TransLink out of the equation by acknowledging the public's concerns, and set a course on how to address them. We keep hearing that the transportation authority has unwieldy governance -- so why not promise to conflate six boards of directors into one? How about adding a transit user or two onto that board? Commit to reviewing executive salaries, and make any bonus pay conditional upon real achievements.

Why not tap YVR Airport CEO Craig Richmond for some advice on fixing TransLink? For six years straight, B.C.'s biggest airport has been ranked number one in North America by a travellers' survey, a credit to Richmond's leadership.

Reach out to small business owners, who are rightly peeved because they must shoulder the burden of collecting the tax. Commit to working with them to lessen their red tape challenges, and show them how the plan will benefit their businesses and employees. As the region's biggest employers you need their support.

Welcome media scrutiny of the Yes campaign itself. Kicking reporters out of telephone town halls was a stupid move, so invite them back in. Be transparent about what you are spending on the campaign and commit to full voluntary disclosure of your campaign finances.

Finally, issue an easy to understand one-page explanation of the mayors' transportation plan priorities and how the tax revenue will be spent.

A well-run campaign can make all the above happen in a matter of days. I challenge the Yes side to make it so.

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No Pants SkyTrain Ride, Vancouver 2014