An Armchair Mayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
I CAN REMEMBER the last time I drove across the Golden Ears Bridge. It was a couple of years ago. It was actually the first and only time.
Paying the toll was relatively painless. We received a notice in the mail a few days later, for four bucks, I think it was. In the old days, you used to have to line up at bridge toll booths and pay your money on the spot. The cars were lined up for miles and it took forever.
When I heard NDP leader John Horgan’s plan to eliminate tolls on the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges, my first thought was, “Right on!”
Then I got to thinking, “What’s so ‘right on’ about that. I never use the Golden Ears Bridge. It isn’t going to save me a dime, and I use the Port Mann maybe two or three times a year so, all in all, we’re talking about pocket change. Big deal.”
Then I thought, “No, it’s actually not going to save me anything at all, in fact will cost me money, because the revenue that comes from those two bridges will have to come from somewhere else. This isn’t magic.”
So when Christy Clark says Horgan has just promised to kill off a $150 million revenue stream, and he’d either have to cut services somewhere else, or raise taxes, she’s right. She promises to cap the tolls, not eliminate them.
But, says Horgan, those two bridges are provincial bridges and all British Columbians should have to pay for them. No, they shouldn’t. An argument can be made for spreading the cost of the Port Mann around, but nobody in Kamloops or Kelowna or Prince George ever uses the Golden Ears. It’s there to connect Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge to Langley and Surrey.
If you believe in user pay, Horgan’s rationale doesn’t fly. It sounds an awful lot as though he’s playing to the Lower Mainland, where the NDP’s strength is, and giving up on the Interior or at least hoping we won’t notice.
And if you’re thinking, “Well, the Liberals took the tolls off the Coquihalla, didn’t they?” you are right, but it was years after that highway was already paid for, whereas the new Port Mann won’t be paid off until at least 2050, and the Golden Ears not until 2041.
And then there’s the $3.5 billion plan for a replacement for the George Massey tunnel connecting Vancouver and points south. Tolls for the users, or more taxes for all of us?
Thanks a lot, John Horgan.