by Devon Rowcliffe

Can a referendum truly be deemed “fair” if voters are thoroughly confused as to the consequences of one of its two options?

Two weeks from now, Metro Vancouver voters will begin receiving their transit referendum ballots in the mail. They will be asked whether they approve a regional sales tax of 0.5 percent, which will be used to generate $7.5 billion to fund transit and transportation improvements across the region.

It seems straightforward enough—until you consider that retaining the status quo is nowhere to be found on the ballot.

The result of a Yes vote is obvious. But what of a potential No victory? This is where things become confusing—which could bestow a massive advantage upon the No side.

There is a troubling lack of clarity as to the consequence of a No result in the referendum. Possibilities are numerous, ranging from the rejection of new transit and a massive expansion of highways and automobile use (against the wishes of the municipalities), through to merely collecting the $7.5 billion for new transit through a different type of regional tax, as well as everything imaginable in between.