Playing political poker with bridge tolls

But is it a good idea?

Over the weekend, the B.C. Liberals and NDP played some pre-election political poker with bridge tolls.

Sunday, the Liberals opened by promising to cap bridge tolls at $500 a year if elected, a move that would save drivers using the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges between $1,000 and $1,500 per year.

Later that same day, the NDP raised the stakes by promising they would eliminate the tolls altogether.

The BC Green Party refused to play, saying toll cuts would only encourage more single occupancy vehicles.

Clearly, the two main provincial parties believe there are votes to be had by offering cheaper bridge crossings.

As election bait goes, we’ll admit, an offer that would save commuters hundreds of dollars is attractive.

Who wouldn’t be happy to see that kind of cash funneled back into their wallet?

But whether it is a good idea is not so clear.

Preliminary estimates put the annual cost in lost revenue to government in the tens of millions.

As Langley City mayor Ted Schaffer pointed out, it’s all very well to chop tolls, but the money to pay for building those bridges will still have to come from somewhere.

And if turns out to be from general tax revenue, expect push-back from people in other parts of the province who won’t be happy if some of their tax dollars are paying for bridges they don’t use.

If that produces a predictable retreat by whatever party happens to have won, toll reductions may turn out to be a mere bluff.

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