Minister vows to cover $57m TransLink shortfall

The Province

By Stuart Hunter

B.C. Transportation Minister Shirley Bond yesterday vowed to cover a $57-million TransLink funding shortfall caused by the harmonized sales tax and pledged her support for the long-promised Evergreen rapid-transit line.

But the NDP’s transport critic Harry Bains said the proof is in the pudding.

TransLink learned in last week’s provincial budget that a repeal of a parking tax on commercial spaces in order to pave the way for the implementation of the HST in July 2010 will result in the shortfall — but Bond said Victoria is looking for answers.

“We’ll move as expeditiously as we can,” Bond said from Prince George. “We are working to find a way to deal with the revenue issues. It’s far too early to speculate about any reductions.”

TransLink commissioner Martin Crilly said last week that the authority could be looking at service cuts unless mayors find a way to generate revenue via higher fares, taxes, tolls or a vehicle levy.

Surrey-Newton MLA Bains called the situation “a total mismanagement of public resources.”

“It is a clear case of how the government brought in the HST without giving any real thought to how it affected many areas,” Bains said.

“I think taxpayers are at maximum capacity and there is no more money in the pockets of consumers right now.”

TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie remained confident a solution will be found prior to next month’s mayors’ council vote on funding options. “We know they are working on it and the minister has assigned a deputy minister to look into the issue,” he said Saturday.

While Crilly questioned whether TransLink can afford the $514-million Evergreen line, which would run from Burnaby to Coquitlam, Bond said Victoria’s commitment isn’t wavering.

“It is an important component of our transit strategy,” Bond said. “Our goal is to try to deliver it.”

shunter@theprovince.com

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