Opinion

Editorial — Clark proves stubborn over Port Mann tolls

Premier Christy Clark has lost thousands of votes south of the Fraser, by stating on Monday that there will be no revisiting of the BC Liberals’ policy on bridge tolling.

Clark was unequivocal that the new Port Mann Bridge will be tolled (at about $3 per trip) when it opens, but there will be no other tolls on any Lower Mainland bridges or tunnels. She is reinforcing the policy, which means that Langley and Surrey residents have the only two toll bridges in B.C. as their major options, if travelling north of the Fraser River.

Of course, there are the free options of the 75-year-old Pattullo Bridge, the Alex Fraser Bridge or the Massey Tunnel. Distance suggests that few Langley residents will choose those options when crossing the river.

Many mayors have suggested that a region-wide tolling policy, of perhaps $1 per crossing, could bring in extra revenue for TransLink and bring about fairness for all who use bridges and tunnels. No longer would drivers be punished, based on where they live.

This is a sensible alternative and would still allow the province to recoup the funds it is using in building the new bridge and improving Highway 1 from Langley to Vancouver. But Clark can’t see that.

Despite the fact that her government has brought in no less than 50 reviews of the Gordon Campbell government’s policies on a wide variety of subjects, she can’t see the wisdom of reversing the Campbell tolling policy. Nor can she understand why South Fraser residents see it as unfair that the new Sea-to-Sky Highway isn’t tolled, but the new Port Mann Bridge will be.

Her South Fraser MLAs have been silent on this policy as well, which is surprising, as it may be a major factor in their electoral fortunes next year. Regular users of Highway 1 from as far east as Chilliwack will be affected by this inequitable policy, and the results in the pending Chilliwack-Hope byelection may prove to Clark that Fraser Valley voters don’t believe in being treated unfairly.

Clark was seen as the potential saviour of the sliding BC Liberals when she became party leader last spring. Her reviews of many Campbell policies are designed to show that she wants to do things differently. Why is she being so stubborn on this policy?

The premier needs to take a page from legendary B.C. Premier W.A.C. Bennett and take a “sober second look” at a policy that punishes people based on where they live. Such second looks allowed Bennett to stay in power for 20 years.

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