Victoria regional transit body tiring of ‘cap-in-hand’ funding requests

Transit commission seeks more direct line of cash

  • Jun. 2, 2011 5:00 p.m.

The province has said it has money to pay for its share of a proposed billion-dollar light-rail transit system for Greater Victoria.

But if it doesn’t change how Greater Victoria’s transit system is funded, there are only two ways of paying for the local share of the LRT: increased property taxes and fares.

That prompted members of the Victoria Regional Transit Commission to appeal for more funding flexibility – which could bring in millions of extra dollars a year – to B.C. Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom during a meeting Tuesday.

“It’s a much clearer picture that the province was … willing to step forward with their one-third funding, and support us in requesting another third from the federal government,” said Victoria Coun. John Luton, a commission member.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin asked Lekstrom for an additional 3.5 cents per litre, paid at local pumps, to go directly into a capital infrastructure reserve fund, which currently doesn’t exist, to help pay for expensive projects, such as the LRT.

The commission currently gets 3.5 cents per litre in gas tax funding.

“We don’t have any savings,” Fortin said. “Ultimately, if you know that a big expense is coming, you need to start saving for it.”

That is how TransLink is partly funded in Vancouver.

“We want more flexibility built into it so we don’t have to go cap-in-hand to the province every time,” said commission chair and Oak Bay Mayor Christopher Causton.

Despite the commission’s financial needs, taxpayers could pay the price for funding requests.

“Is the province considering taxes in the region for their share or fund their share from existing provincial sources?” Saanich Mayor and commission member Frank Leonard said of the questions that still need to be answered.

“I think we have to be watchful of the taxpayers’ interests when these things are being talked about in a general way.”

emccracken@vicnews.com