Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C. Committee Debates Paying for Transit by Taxing First Nations

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C. Committee Debates Paying for Transit by Taxing First Nations

Article excerpt

Committee talks transit fee for First Nations

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VANCOUVER - A Metro Vancouver regional district committee is floating the idea of imposing a levy on the area's aboriginals to add millions to its cash-strapped transit system, a suggestion immediately deemed "unacceptable" by First Nations leaders.

The Aboriginal Relations Committee is proposing the idea of a fee for First Nations who live on band land to the provincial government, in the hopes Metro will win approval from the Ministry of Transportation to implement the tax.

While it's currently only a suggestion, "the discussion needs to happen," according to the committee's chairman, who is mayor of Maple Ridge.

Mayor Ernie Daykin said the committee will be sending a recommendation to the TransLink Mayor's Council.

"There's going to be a line or something in there with the thought that, 'the TransLink Mayor's Council and Regional Transportation has an obligation to address the issue of TransLink levies on behalf of the region's taxpayers,'" said Daykin.

"I'm paying $175 for my house each year to TransLink," he said, adding aboriginal residents with houses on First Nations land who want public transportation services should pay a similar amount.

"Because we're all paying into that regional pot," Daykin said.

If the same levy applied to First Nations land, the committee believes Translink could generate an extra $2.4 to $3.6 million in revenue.

But First Nations leaders say they already pay fees to Metro Vancouver and the committee should have consulted them first before suggesting the plan.

Musqueam Coun. Wade Grant said he had no idea the levy was being discussed and wondered why the Aboriginal Relations Committee continually fails to consult First Nations.

"First Nations find it completely frustrating that these types of decisions or these types of ideas are brought forward without any consideration," Grant said.

"Musqueam itself is just getting by on a day-to-day basis with respect to the transfer funding that we do get (from the federal government) which is why we're working hard on economic development. We're not where we want it to be and we're still trying to create a self-sufficient community. …

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