Massey mire shows government removed from reality

If the BC NDP government were a football team, it would punt on second down.

Policy after policy, study after study, to wit in its short history: Ride hailing. Mobility pricing. Money laundering. Freedom of information reform.

A recent big one: Taking two more years to find one-quarter of the greenhouse gas emission reductions to meet its own notional, now less than believable, targets for 2030 in its hilariously named CleanBC climate action plan. That the Green Party would consider this adequate to sustain its alliance now suggests John Horgan could do anything to Andrew Weaver and the best he could threaten is: “Over my live body.”

And, this week, a new object of inertia: The announcement of a two-year soul-search of the Lower Mainland to figure out how to upgrade the Massey Tunnel from (at best) a life-shortening infuriation and (at worst) a life-ending death trap. We ought to have the Star Trek transporter by the time the project is built.

About the only thing this government does quickly is tax: on housing, on payrolls, on higher-income earners, and soon on carbon consumption. At New Year’s, instead of Auld Lang Syne, I’m going to stream The Beatles’ Revolver: you know the song, I’m sure, the one that starts with, “Let me tell you how it will be, There’s one for you, nineteen for me.”

If the sloth were justified, if there weren’t evident answers to the pivotal questions, we could forgive. But these are cynical, disrespectful manoeuvres with hyper-political rationales.

The ride-hailing hesitation doesn’t risk three Surrey seats of would-be angry taxi industry connections.

The mobility pricing procrastination is all about keeping voters south of the Fraser from having a conniption fit.

The money laundering backburner is all about not killing the casino goose laying the golden egg.

The freedom of information rain cheque prevents us from knowing much more about what happens in those Victorian stone buildings hour by hour.

There is no good reason for any of them to be put off.

And the Massey Tunnel morass? An accident waiting to happen, again and again, and a head in the sand of how housing prices have shoved hundreds of thousands to south of the Fraser for living in tandem with their arduous commutes north of the Fraser for working.

This is not a problem solved by counterflow lanes, by gasoline taxes, by reinstituting bridge tolls or by jacking up the high downtown parking rates—by anything within any government’s playbook. Except infrastructure—yesterday, not a study tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

I have lived through some awful southern Ontario commutes, sometimes three and four hours a day of back and forth. But there, at least, the government kept an open mind to road expansion. It recognized the economic and social toll taken by excessive hours in the car and truck.

This government seems to cruelly revel in it, as if our time isn’t money, as if our time isn’t spent away from our families, as if our time isn’t spewing carbon idling interminably.

The transport minister has the same galling line she used on the ride-hailing ridiculousness—that we are all “understandably frustrated.” Do tell.

I can believe that a project of this sort is in the zone of $10-12 billion. But there is a price for prosperity and a more important one for sanity. The insane, unprosperous route has been to dither for more than a year to say it will dither another two years, then perhaps take another half-decade to deliver on its dither.

The biggest lies of all involving knowing the truth and deciding to withhold it.

The government knows the particulars necessary to effect ride hailing. It knows the formula to start pricing vehicular mobility. It knows additional measures to combat money laundering. It has even recommended in opposition the means to produce a pragmatic freedom of information law.

It may not know how to get the greenhouse gas emissions in check, but it certainly knows the fix for the Massey Tunnel. Maybe it’s eight lanes, not 10. Maybe it’s a twinning instead of a bridge. But it’s something palpable and capable of a decision today.

What we have, though, is a halting, hesitant Horgan government. On all matters but those that declare tax class warfare, it can’t say no, can’t say yes, has trouble with maybe.

It is the Never Do Party. Who saw that coming?

Kirk LaPointe is editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.