Skip to main content

B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins at his campaign office in Langley, B.C., on Sept. 17, 2012.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

B.C. Conservatives and Liberals battled over bridge tolls and ferry rates Monday, a prelude to full-fledged campaigning for the May 14 provincial election.

A Conservative-proposed tax credit for users of both bridges and ferries was dismissed as unaffordable by Premier Christy Clark.

While the ferry portion of the Conservative proposal was aimed at all users of B.C. Ferries, the bridge side was targeted at right-of-centre voters south of the Fraser who pay tolls on the Port Mann and/or Golden Ears bridges.

Story continues below advertisement

The verbal sparring between B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins and Ms. Clark came as both made their respective political cases to voters in two separate south-of-the-Fraser communities.

Mr. Cummins proposed a maximum annual tax credit of 40 per cent of the tolls paid on either bridge or on ferry fares as part of an effort that he said would cost a Conservative government $45-million per year.

He outlined the plan in a north Surrey hotel, noting that those who travelled across the Port Mann Bridge to get to the venue would have had to pay a toll to get there, while those living and working in Maple Ridge would have paid a toll to cross the Golden Ears Bridge.

He said it was "unfair" that residents of Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, Maple Ridge and the Fraser Valley had to pay such tolls. "For reasons that most of us do not understand, the B.C. Liberal government has decided to make some British Columbians – based on where they live – pay a toll when they drive to and from work," he said.

"We think that folks deserve some tax relief, if you will, and that's what we're prepared to give them."

The tax credit, partly modelled on the federal Public Transit Tax Credit adopted while Mr. Cummins was a Conservative MP, would be enacted on Jan. 1, 2014 if the provincial Conservatives, who currently have no seats in the B.C. legislature, win power in the provincial election May 14.

Mr. Cummins said it was not increased spending, but rather reduced revenue that his party had calculated a Conservative government could afford.

Story continues below advertisement

And he suggested that by making the bridges more affordable, it would encourage more drivers to use them, driving up revenues for Translink and the Transportation Investment Corporation.

On the impasse over transit funding in the Lower Mainland, Mr. Cummins said only there are "huge problems" with Translink, mayors need a voice and the issue has to be addressed.

Ms. Clark, after a speech to the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce a few hours later, dismissed Mr. Cummins's plan as unaffordable. "It's an example of how, when you're not in government, you can promise anything," she told reporters.

"I've seen [the B.C. Conservative] budget. It's filled with all these crazy revenue projections so I don't know how they would even keep the promises they have made until last week. Add this one and I think it would be pretty unaffordable for taxpayers."

Transportation Minister Mary Polak, also attending the luncheon, said subsidizing travel for residents of the Lower Mainland and ferry users on the B.C. coast would create regional inequities.

"I am not sure how somebody in 100 Mile House is going to feel about granting a tax break for people on the Port Mann Bridge," she said. "[Mr. Cummins] is not thinking provincially when he is making announcements like that."

Story continues below advertisement

Ms. Polak said the pending Liberal platform will not go far beyond policies on transit issues the Liberals have articulated in talks with mayors.

Responding to audience questions, Ms. Clark spelled out some of those points, ruling out universal road tolls and calling for affordable regional transit solutions that local taxpayers will support.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter