COPE Advises Politicos to Support TransLink

The Straight

The Coalition of Progressive Electors executive has urged Mayor Larry Campbell and the five COPE councillors on the Greater Vancouver Regional District board to support TransLink‘s three-year transportation strategy and 10-year outlook.

The GVRD board will vote on Friday (February 27) to either endorse or reject TransLink’s plan, which includes a $370-million contribution for the proposed Richmond/Airport/Vancouver Rapid Transit project along Cambie Street. The $1.5-billion to $1.7-billion RAV project will be built partially underground and is expected to be completed in time for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

COPE cochair Carmela Allevato claimed in a February 24 e-mail to party supporters that if the plan isn’t approved, those who will suffer the most will be seniors, shut-ins, commuters, and other regular transit users.

TransLink’s three-year plan calls for a six-percent transit fare increase beginning in 2005. It also calls for higher parking taxes and property taxes to pay for $1.2 billion in road and transit projects between 2005 and 2007. TransLink forecasts $4 billion in capital expenditures by 2013.

Prior to the 2002 civic election, COPE promised to freeze transit fares. In a pre-election news release, then­COPE council candidate Raymond Louie criticized subway projects as “high-cost pipe dreams”. After being elected, Louie voted at Vancouver city council in favour of the RAV subway project.

COPE’s chief organizer, Neil Monckton, said he didn’t know what would happen to COPE councillors on the GVRD board who vote against TransLink’s three-year plan. “We haven’t really come to that point where that has happened,” Monckton told the Straight.

Three COPE councillors on the GVRD board–Fred Bass, Tim Louis, and Anne Roberts–voted last November at city council against endorsing TransLink’s transportation strategy. Louis declined to say how he will vote at the GVRD board meeting on Friday, and Bass and Roberts were unavailable for comment.

COPE’s executive endorsed TransLink’s plan after Vancouver and District Labour Council president and COPE executive member Bill Saunders wrote a draft motion urging acceptance. According to the February 16 motion, a copy of which was obtained by the Straight, Saunders claimed that if the GVRD directors didn’t approve TransLink’s three-year transportation plan, the RAV project would collapse.

“The current division in the COPE caucus is putting this vital initiative at risk of defeat by a coalition of mall owners opposed to the [parking] stall tax and North Shore interests, including West Vancouver, who are opposed to any increase in property taxes to pay for transit improvements,” Saunders wrote. “More importantly COPE representatives on the GVRD are evenly split on this issue, effectively reducing their voting power to zero and eliminating their voice in a crucial area of core policy. COPE and its elected representatives must be able to deliver the votes necessary on crucial issues or risk irrelevancy.”

Monckton, however, said Saunders is a nonvoting member of the COPE executive and didn’t introduce a motion on TransLink’s plans at the February 18 executive meeting. “What really matters is the organization has taken a position to endorse the plan, and we strongly recommend our elected officials support it as well,” Monckton said.

The Vancouver and District Labour Council contributed $42,600 to COPE’s 2002 election campaign, according to documents filed in the city clerk’s office.

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