TransLink's fuel tax rises April 1 from 15 cents a litre to 17 cents.

Gas tax hike for transit didn’t hurt mayors

Voters re-elected biggest advocates of TransLink plan by wide margins

Drivers angry with the Metro Vancouver mayors who voted to jack TransLink’s gas tax by two cents next April got no obvious vengeance at the polls Saturday.

Incumbent mayors in North Vancouver, Langley City and Surrey who most vocally championed the gas tax increase as part of a plan to build the Evergreen Line and other transit upgrades were re-elected by wide margins, as were those in the cities of Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam that will benefit from the new SkyTrain extension.

All of those mayors were returned by at least 70 per cent of their voters, except Coquitlam, where Richard Stewart got 57 per cent.

The tax hike was an issue in several cities, including Surrey, but Mayor Dianne Watts was returned with 80 per cent of the vote there and mayors’ council chair Richard Walton got 81 per cent in the District of North Vancouver.

Mayors who voted against the TransLink tax – Burnaby’s Derek Corrigan, Richmond’s Malcolm Brodie and Delta’s Lois Jackson – were also returned, indicating local issues and the power of incumbents were bigger factors.

The only incumbent mayor in Metro Vancouver who went down to defeat was Langley Township’s Rick Green. He voted against the gas tax hike but had been in a divisive battle with his own council throughout the past term.

Sitting mayors did not run again in Port Moody, West Vancouver, Pitt Meadows and White Rock and were replaced by new faces. They will now join the regional mayors’ council that votes on any future tax or fee increases to fund TransLink.

The mayors are expected to negotiate new revenue sources with the province that could see a vehicle levy or more bridge or road tolls added in Metro Vancouver.

Further east in the Fraser Valley, two more incumbent mayors were defeated in Abbotsford, where voters also rejected a referendum on a controversial plan to expand the Stave Lake water supply as a public-private partnership, and in Mission, where voters were angry about inspection fees charged to homes suspected of housing marijuana grow-ops.

City councils will designate their local directors to the Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley regional districts.

Directors will then choose the new board chairs of the regional governments next month.

Jackson, Metro’s chair, said before the election she would not seek the position again.

One of the major challenges facing the two regional districts is the implementation of Metro’s plan to build a new garbage incinerator in the region, despite air pollution fears lodged by the FVRD.