"We can win this referendum!"
David Suzuki Foundation CEO Peter Robinson may have been contradicting the last set of public opinion polls, but there were no doubters in the room Wednesday April 1 as 200 core organizers behind the Better Transportation & Transit Coalition (BTTC) gathered for a noisy mid-campaign rally at the Simon Fraser University Wosk Centre for Dialogue.
The crowd was animated, in part, by news that Elections BC has received only 4.1% of the ballots in the transit and transportation plebiscite. That low response rate is a positive sign, said Robinson, who is also a co-chair of the BTTC coalition. “No is a vote for the status quo,” he said, “while YES is a vote for positive change.” Robinson and the other campaigners in the room seemed to agree that all the motivation is on the YES side.
Co-Chair and Unifor BC Area director Gavin McGarrigle also dismissed the early-March polls that showed the No side with a significant advantage. He got an easy laugh with the line: “These are the same pollsters who told us about the last election,” a reference to late-in the-day survey results that predicted an easy NDP victory in a vote that went decidedly Liberal.
Most of the biggest cheers in a cheerful night went to young speakers who apologized for being amateurs and then whipped up the crowd like old pros. Electrical contractor Ben Aberle said, “A YES vote is about something more important than just transit expansion.” Listing a series of road and bridge improvements captured in the $7.5-billion plan, he said, “This is about making room on the roads for contractors like me, for goods movement and for emergency vehicles – which could save lives.”
HUB Cycling Executive Director Erin O’Melinn hailed the prospect of 2,700 kilometres of new bike lanes, including critical connections on some major (and currently dangerous) routes between municipalities. It’s time, she said, to “ungap the map.”
Bus driver Krista Lee Munro, from Unifor Local 111, talked about the frustration of leaving passengers standing on the sidewalk, even on days when traffic is light. “Voting YES will help me get everyone to school and work – and home.” Which won rousing applause from co-chair Behareh Jokar, who as Vice-President External at the UBC Alma Mater Society is representing Metro Vancouver’s 150,000 students, “pretty much all of them dependent upon transit,” she said.
But while people agreed the status quo needs work, BTTC co-chair and Board of Trade CEO Iain Black summed up the mood of the room: “People are tired of the cynicism and shallowness” that has marked the No campaign arguments against action, he said. People are ready for change and “now is the time.”
Check out some photos from the rally: Facebook photo album