Fare reductions delayed while bridge tolls gone

Editorial

Tuesday, August 29 2017

Islanders fully understand and sympathize with residents in the lower mainland with regard to the NDP Government eliminating tolls on bridges. And another caveat before the rant - we know this government hasn’t had a chance in legislature to actually discuss issues up front.

And they’re a new government. They can’t be all things to all voters, at all times, right away. But all those excuses aside, questions remain.

Like asking how the NDP Government can eliminate all those tolls on bridges in the Lower Mainland, but is waiting until April 1, 2018 to put any reductions in place on ferry fares. Note: bridge tolls are being eliminated. Ferry fares are merely being reduced. Yet the NDP explanations for reducing those tolls sound like the reasons coastal communities want ferry fares eliminated.

Quoting the press release, “Eliminating tolls from these two bridges will save the daily commuter approximately $1,500 each year and the daily commercial driver as much as $4,500 a year.” 

If we’re going to compare to the vehicle drivers heading over the Port Mann, a daily ferry commuter with vehicle, with an Experience Card, can expect to pay roughly $5,000 a year.

Even the idea that the NDP has to wait until the new BC Ferries fiscal year starting on April 1 to make ferry changes doesn’t quite fly. 

Part of the bridge toll deal involves paying Translink to cover the soon-to-be-unpaid tolls on the Golden Ears Bridge. Millions (over $140 million a year) of taxpayer dollars are going to be spent for many years to come eliminating bridge tolls. 

If Translink can be dealt with now, so could BC Ferries.

And we’re being told that no changes will happen until an operational review is done on BC Ferries. No changes, other than fare reductions which will put a higher demand on our already overloaded system.

The minority NDP government needs to earn votes on the mainland. If there’s another election, they’re going to need every vote they can get.

But right now, in this particular moment, ferry-dependent communities who supported the NDP in ousting the Christy Clark Liberals are feeling short-changed.