Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for November 22nd, 2008

Must we choose our planet or our wallets?

with 4 comments

An editorial in the Richmond Review that I wholeheartedly agree with: now that is sentence I thought I wouldn’t ever write.

Unless Victoria and Ottawa suddenly become more generous, the chronically underfunded TransLink will have to raise the money through a barrage of unpopular local taxes and levies.

Staggeringly obvious of course. Yet both Messrs Harper and Campbell are committed to proceeding with the Gateway. And are now sayiong that it is “necessary” to act as a stimulus to the economy. As though increasing transit service isn’t. And also as though the Gateway was actually going to do some good when all that can be said with confidence about it is that it will result in greater environmental and social damage and will lock us into car dependency when we need to be doing the exact opposite.

Actually there is an even easier way for both the province and Canada to help. They can just stop collecting tax from transit agencies. It seems bizarre, but much of the money that Translink gets in taxes from us it has to pass along to senior governments. Fuel tax for example is one of the biggest transfers back. It would be easy to make transit fuel tax free – and indeed most other countries do that. Transit fares are exempt from GST but does Translink get back the GST it has to pay on everything it buys? Again other countries with VAT (Value Added Tax) have this exemption.

Actually I am going to disagree with one of the ideas in this editorial. Property Transfer Tax is niot a good source of revenue for any level of government and should be simply abolished. In fact in a market where very few properties indeed are changing hands right now, it is a lousy source of revenue. But like all property tax it is a very blunt instrument, and is not realated at all to use of the transportation system.

Now that gasoline prices are coming down, that is where I would look first. But again obviously a regional road use charge would be much more sensible.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 22, 2008 at 3:54 pm