Chamber pushes for rapid-transit referendum, review

Victoria business group says third-party examination needed

Business leaders plan to pitch their case for the need for more due diligence and a regional referendum on a proposed $950-million light-rail rapid transit service.

A delegation of representatives from the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, which represents 1,000 businesses, will be championing the quest when the Victoria Regional Transit Commission meets on Sept. 13.

“No surprise, what we’re going to do is say there needs to be a third-party review in order to make this funding decision,” said Bruce Carter, chamber president.

The chamber is now in the process of fine-tuning its referendum position, developing what it thinks the question should be, who should have the opportunity to answer it, and when it could be asked.

“One of the reasons why we don’t have a question is because we don’t know whether we’re borrowing a billion dollars or how we’re paying for it, or really if it is a billion dollars, until there’s a third-party review,” Carter said.

The magnitude of the potential costs involved in the project, combined with the commission’s lacking regional representation make a strong case for an external review, eventually going to voters for direction, as well as a new transit governance model, Carter said.

In June, the chamber sounded the alarm that the LRT project should undergo a third-party review and receive endorsement from voters, after it gave B.C. Transit’s proposal a business review.

Given the complexity involved in the proposal, chamber officials concluded an outside party needs to analyze the proposal’s construction and operating costs, and determine the economic impact and cost-sharing options.

Since then, Carter has spoken with B.C. Transit representatives and said he has been assured that an external review of the project will happen.

“When they get to the next stage, which is the business case development, there will be a review by an independent third party and it will be a contractor and it will go to government,” Carter said. “It’s a requirement for funding at the federal level.”