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Stone, Lower Mainland mayors to talk transit

B.C. Transport Minister Todd Stone argues that residents, taxpayers and commuters need a role in the “big decisions” ahead on improving transportation in Metro Vancouver.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Globe and Mail

B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone is planning to meet with Metro Vancouver mayors next week to talk about the controversial referendum on transit funding that is largely opposed by the mayors.

Mr. Stone's office confirmed Monday that the Minister will be attending a Valentine's Day gathering of the mayors.

It would be his second such meeting since his first in September, Richard Walton, chair of the council of 21 Metro-area mayors, said in an e-mail exchange.

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Asked about the minister's agenda, a spokesman for the ministry pointed to an editorial about the referendum released under Mr. Stone's name last week.

In the editorial, Mr. Stone writes that residents, taxpayers and commuters need a role in the "big decisions" ahead on improving transportation in Metro Vancouver.

In their platform for the 2013 provincial election, the B.C. Liberals suggested a referendum as the means of seeking that approval. Although the government has called for a vote timed with November municipal elections, Premier Christy Clark has lately said she is open to delaying the vote subject to talks with the mayors.

While Mr. Stone wrote that the B.C. Liberal government is not opposed to the idea of additional funding sources atop current taxes and fees, the taxpayer has to have a say on those measures.

However, the mayors have expressed a number of concerns about the referendum, including the absence of a specific question and concerns that the referendum could get tangled with municipal campaigns.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said it is always positive to have a dialogue with the minister, but the issue has been on the back burner too long, leaving key questions unanswered.

While mayors are interested in generating public opinion on funding sources, he said the referendum is a "clumsy" way to bring that about. "If [a referendum] is a good idea, why is it only being used for transit funding?" Mr. Brodie said in an interview.

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The mayor said he hoped the Minister will, behind closed doors, talk about proposed governance changes to TransLink, the regional transit authority, and outline more specific plans on how the referendum will work.

Follow me on Twitter: @ianabailey

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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