The 125 Dollar Challenge

Jordan Bateman, local spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and leader of the No side in the upcoming Metro Vancouver referendum, is fond of saying that there’s a disadvantage in this campaign to implement a 0.5% sales tax increase to help finance long-term public transportation improvements.  He’s right.  It’s unfair to those supporting the initiative.

By agreeing to approve the tax increase, Yes side supporters are saying they are willing to commit about $125 annually, based on Mayors’ Council figures, to help improve their community through this investment in our public transportation system.  This includes the mayors leading the Yes campaign as well as the members of the 100-plus organizations backing this cause.

There is nothing about a No vote on this ballot that indicates any such commitment towards benefiting our region regardless of the motive for this choice.  I am sure there are many voters against this proposal who work in many other ways to contribute towards the public service, such as volunteering, however, voting against this initiative makes no material demands.

This is another reason why, as I said in my previous post, productively little will be accomplished to the benefit of the community about placing a priority on bolstering the anti-tax/anti-authority movement on this issue.  This referendum is about an initiative to improve the public transportation system to meet current and long term demands across the region.  It is a matter of public interest, not politics.

Using the occasion to simply express outrage at the government and its institutions is self-serving and irresponsible, especially to the disadvantaged and those unable to drive.  We are the ones, not government, who are driving the cars and riding transit to the extent that leads to congestion.  We are all dependent, economically, socially, or otherwise, on a smooth running transportation system.

Despite the heavy government presence in this plebiscite, this proposal is not being imposed upon us.  The choice is ours through this vote.  In this way, a decision based on an anti-authority position is misplaced and inappropriate on this issue.

If you are opposed to this measure because you feel you cannot afford this tax increase, that’s understandable, however, I sincerely believe that this initiative will ultimately benefit you by continuing to support your mobility, expanding your economic opportunity, and helping to keep cost of goods down by managing congestion.

If you are intent on voting No simply based on a position of self-interest, as I said in my previous post, we clearly have an ideological difference of opinion.

If, however, you care for the well-being of the community, but disagree with this proposal, whether due to your dislike of the sales tax increase or Translink, disinterest in public transit, or other reason, my suggestion is to further demonstrate your opposition by pledging to make a donation to a local charity instead.  Show that you are more willing to use the money being asked for in this ballot to support another cause that will benefit our region.

I’m not asking this be done in perpetuity like the sales tax increase or that it necessarily matches the cost to you based on your income (this can be estimated through the Vancouver Sun’s calculator).  I will suggest at least an $85 donation that is estimated to be the cost for a $50,000 household income, well below the reported $71,000 Metro Vancouver average in 2012 according to Stats Canada.

The leaders of both sides of this referendum, however, should follow a higher standard for this challenge.  For those on the Yes side, it is recognized that this sales tax increase will also affect you personally if it passes which is partly why I am challenging you to reinforce your commitment to this initiative by pledging to donate $125, the amount being claimed to be the average annual cost per household, to a local charity of your choice if the No side prevails.

I am also challenging the leaders of the No side to commit to this $125 donation should you be successful in your objective.  Like some of your supporters to whom I suggested this course of action, if you truly have the public interest at heart in your campaign, then donating is an appropriate alternative use of the money you do not want to be given to public transportation.

Supporters on both sides of this debate are welcome to participate in this challenge.  Help me monitor its progress by answering the poll at the bottom of this post.  Like I said earlier, I am suggesting a minimum $85 donation, but feel free to pledge what you feel is suitable and affordable.

Clearly I am in favor of the passing of this congestion tax, however, if it fails, since I’m the one who came up with this challenge, I pledge to donate $125 divided between the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, the United Way, and a third charity to be determined later.  The Food Bank because if we don’t work to resolve these transportation issues, food costs will keep rising for hungry families.  Mobility will also become increasingly difficult for those already dealing with health, poverty, and other social challenges which explains my support for the United Way.

No one should mistake this as an argument for a No vote in the belief that donating their money is better than spending it on public transportation.  Helping those in need is always worthwhile, but investment, in the long term, will always be more effective than charity.

Of course, these pledges are to be made and followed through on an honour system.  I also suggest that if the Yes side wins this referendum, all participants still make at least a smaller donation to their causes so they are not completely left out from this challenge.  I will still make a $20 donation to both the Food Bank and United Way in this scenario.

Either way, let’s ensure that something productive benefiting the community does get accomplished from this political exercise.

Partial disclosure, I am a non-managerial employee in a well-known organization supporting the Yes side on this issue, but I have no involvement with my company on this subject, nor is it really aware of my activity at least up to this point.  All of the content and opinions on this blog are completely my own.

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Posted in Economics, Environment, Metro Vancouver, Politics, Public Policy, Public Transit, Transportation

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