WATCH: Transit Referendum hits BCIT (courtesy BCIT Magazine)
Student representatives have voted overwhelmingly to support the “Yes” side in Metro Vancouver’s transportation funding referendum.
That vote proposes a .5% increase in PST to fund major transit and infrastructure improvements.
The 20-5 (1 abstention) decision came after a lengthy debate.
It was the second time Council has tackled the question.
VP External Tyra Bermudez says the move means BCIT students can expect to see a more visible presence of the “Yes” Campaign on campus as soon as this week.
She added that the SA won’t be telling students to vote yes, but will be focussing on an informational campaign, and helping students register to vote.
Council rejected supporting the “Yes” campaign last month in a tight vote over concerns around the plan’s business fundamentals and oversight.
On Monday, Bermudez and School of Business Chair Joseph Prophet presented the case to council a second time, seeking to address those issues.
Bermudez introduced the vote by saying a number of key issues council had identified previously with the Mayors’ Council Plan around transparency and inefficiency had been addressed in communications with government.
And she tied support of the vote to closer ties with other student unions in upcoming U-Pass negotiations, noting that currently BCIT part time students don’t have access to the U-Pass program.
“Being neutral, impartial, in this political arena has handicapped our institution, and it is our due diligence as the representatives of BCIT students not to commit the same errors as our past bodies have made,” she said.
But support was far from universal.
Downtown Campus Chair Emilio Da Silva argued transportation improvements will get built regardless of a yes or no vote.
“Irrelevant to whether this referendum goes ahead or not, we’re still getting the Pattullo Bridge. In Surrey we’re still getting our light rail. And there are backup plans for funding regarding that,” he said.
VP of Finance and Administration Allan Depa expressed concern about the effect of a new tax on students.
“It’s a small tax – but that’s on everything. That’s on groceries and your daily spending, and that adds up,” he told council.
Da Silva shared that concern, arguing the fact that the vote was non binding meant taxes collected could end up shifted into a “big pot of money.”
Prophet sought to address those concerns. He argued the money won’t going to TransLink, but to an independent fund to be overseen by respected business leaders, including magnate Jimmy Pattison.
“This is a man that will not put his name on things that will stain it. This is huge, this is something we can rely on. This is something you guys were complaining about and we actually have something that we can say yes – this will get done the way we want,” he said.
He also presented numbers on efficiency, noting waste identified by the “No” campaign represented less than a precent of TransLink’s operating budget, and noting the transit authority had the lowest operating costs per hour of any major metro area in Canada.
“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. Because if we vote no, this is doing no good. This is just hurting us, this is hurting our economic growth, our transportation, it’s hurting everything. And to vote no to it is to be ignorant to that fact,” he told council.
In the end it appears that argument swayed councillors.
Students have until May 29th to cast their vote.
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