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Premier must hit the brakes on mobility pricing

Kris Sims: All the concern about Vancouver's plan to impose road tolls misses one key point: the only person who can impose or oppose them is Premier John Horgan - who said it "never" will be part of his platform.
Pay up or GET OUT (LeonWang /

Premier John Horgan needs to keep his promise to stop to mobility pricing plans because taxpayers can’t afford expensive new driving taxes.

Vancouver’s politicians are pushing ahead with their plans for something called transport pricing.

That’s a new term to most people, but they might be more familiar with the previous monikers of mobility pricing or congestion fees.

In reality, these are expensive driving taxes and bureaucrats are bent on imposing them from the Fraser Valley to North Vancouver.

Vancouver city council voted 6-4 to spend two years developing an implementation plan based on the 371-page report that includes building a toll wall around Vancouver’s downtown core.

The proposed toll wall would run from Burrard Street to Clark Drive, bordered on the south by 16th Avenue. What’s inside the wall? Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver City Hall and Vancouver Police Headquarters along with the Supreme and Provincial courts. There are also countless small businesses, many of which depend on delivering goods to their customers throughout the region.

While the bureaucrats haven’t decided how high to set driving taxes, it’s going to cost taxpayers at least $1.5 million just for the plans. City hall is even hiring more staff and consultants for the study.

Vancouver’s city manager is paid more than $362,000. That’s more than the premier. The city’s chief planner Gil Kelley is paid more than $291,000. The city’s sustainability manager, engineering manager and transport manager all make cabinet minister level money, and they have staff that work for them, so why are they hiring more staff and consultants?

These managers are the ones who gave themselves a raise and bought $1,500 Herman Miller designer office chairs in the middle of the pandemic.

It’s that let-them-eat-avocado-toast thinking that led city hall to target taxpayers with big costs just because they drive to work.

It would be easy to brush off this toll wall as another moonbeam idea, but that would be a big mistake because this plan for new driving taxes will not stop in the downtown.

Bureaucrats frequently talk about these new driving taxes at TransLink meetings. Its 2018 study cost taxpayers more than $2 million. That TransLink report recommended charging drivers up to $6.37 to drive into work using the Port Mann Bridge in the morning and up to $8.27 coming home in the evening.

City planners want this idea to spread throughout Metro Vancouver so workers commuting from places such as Mission, Port Coquitlam, Abbotsford, Surrey and Delta all get nailed in the wallets. The planning department should remember that Metro Vancouver drivers already pay 51 cents in taxes per litre of gasoline. That means it costs $35 in gas taxes to fill up a minivan.

Oddly, Vancouver council voted in favour of the study even though the power to impose taxes and tolls on B.C.’s roadways ultimately lies with the province.

“As it turns out, the City of Vancouver does not even have the legal authority to put something like this in place,” Mayor Kennedy Stewart told the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade Nov. 12, five days before he voted for the proposal.

During the election, then B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson asked Horgan about driving taxes on the Mike Smyth show on CKNW:

“NDP insiders are now talking about a road tax up to $3,000 per vehicle. Are you prepared to commit right here right now that there will be no such road tax under any NDP government?”

Horgan was unequivocal.

“I can commit to that right here right now because you’re pulling that right out of thin air,” said Horgan. “That’s not part of our platform – never has been, never will be.”

Mayor Stewart admits that Horgan is the only one who can impose driving taxes. Horgan promised not to impose driving taxes.

The affordability premier needs to hold up his stop sign.

Kris Sims is the B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation