Opinion: The bell tolls for drivers – again

Traffic in and out of the George Massey Tunnel, which connects Richmond and Delta | Rob Kruyt, BIV

Every time I think I’m off the TransLink file, they pull me back in.

This time, you can blame B.C. Premier David Eby.

At a news conference Wednesday announcing a half-billion dollar bailout for the regional transit authority, Eby was asked, point-blank, by Richard Zussman of Global News if he was considering mobility pricing.

Eby’s subsequent scramble would have made Patrick Mahomes proud.

He didn’t say yes. He didn’t say no. He mentioned creative long-term options in a word salad, then ducked to the next question.

The NDP’s city supporters generally love the idea of road pricing. It punishes suburban drivers and people who don’t take public transit or ride bikes everywhere. By pushing people out of cars, they believe they reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Sure, a huge percentage of people will be isolated, impoverished, or forced to radically change their lifestyles and livelihoods. And of course it will drive up the cost of every good and service within the tax’s boundary. All that’s a small price to pay in an eco-activist’s mind.

Those who oppose road taxes are constantly driving in the counterflow in NDP-land – even when they are at the top of the power pyramid.

Back in 2017, tired after losing four straight elections to the BC Liberals, NDP strategist Bob Dewar horrified the eco-activists in his party by pushing through a policy to scrap tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges. While Premier Christy Clark had promised a cap on tolls, then-opposition leader John Horgan promised a toll-free B.C.

Guess which plan cash-strapped Surrey voters went with?

Alas, that was six years, two elections, one premier and an affordability crisis ago. The NDP and many of its tax-first thinkers have never quit the idea of mobility pricing, no matter how many times taxpayers have told them no thanks.

NDP MP-turned-Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart, emboldened by the city hall bureaucrats, floated the possibility of forcing people to pay to drive within city limits, opening the door for Ken Sim to trounce him at the polls. One of ABC Vancouver’s first votes as a city council majority quashed that road tax plan.

NDP icon Joy MacPhail and Unifor (an NDP-supporting union) director Gavin McGarrigle were part of a TransLink study group that recommended mobility pricing just a year after Horgan had promised we were now in a toll-free B.C. Metro Vancouver’s climate strategy floats the idea as well.

And now it’s Eby’s turn. All he had to do was rule it out. Instead, he kept his left blinker on in case he plans to change lanes into mobility pricing.

Taxpayers, be concerned.

Jordan Bateman, once-upon-a-time, successfully led the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s referendum campaign against a TransLink sales tax (and a plan to toll the new Pattullo Bridge), defeating the plan with 62% of Lower Mainland voters opposed to the tax.