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Updated: Road pricing one Metro-raised issue that divides parties

B.C. political parties vying to form the next government have differing positions on at least one issue – whether drivers should be charged more to get around Metro Vancouver in order to fund transit expansion. - Black Press file photo
B.C. political parties vying to form the next government have differing positions on at least one issue – whether drivers should be charged more to get around Metro Vancouver in order to fund transit expansion.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

Whether road pricing should finance transit expansion in Metro Vancouver is one regional issue where the clearest lines have been drawn between provincial political parties.

It's one of the questions put to the parties ahead of the provincial election by the Metro regional district on its new advocacy website, localgovernmentmatters.ca.

The B.C. Liberals were the last of the four major parties to respond, providing answers Tuesday.

Most responses, particularly from the NDP, pledge mainly to work with local government on key issues without taking a detailed position.

On the question of enabling road pricing to raise more money for TransLink, the NDP say only they "will be open to a discussion with a reformed TransLink board."

As for how TransLink will be restructured, the NDP have only said they would put municipal elected representatives back on the board, without spelling out details.

The Greens go farthest to endorse higher charges for motorists to drive in the region, saying they support a variety of strategies including road pricing, parking pricing and congestion pricing.

B.C. Conservatives are staunchly against road pricing.

"Drivers should not be punished with tolls and taxes at every road and bridge to pay for TransLink," said the Conservatives' response.

The B.C. Liberals, who have been under fire from Conservative candidates in Surrey for introducing tolls on the Port Mann Bridge, have promised a November 2014 referendum on new funding sources for TransLink.

B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark has said she opposes tolls on existing roads and bridges.

Clark said the referendum would allow voters to block new funding to TransLink if they don't support it, although Transportation Minister Mary Polak had previously suggested the referendum would make voters provide more revenue to TransLink one way or another, by choosing the most acceptable source.

The Liberals said in their statement they created two seats on TransLink's board for the Mayors Council chair and vice-chair, but the mayors declined to use them.

On reforming TransLink again, the party argues there is "more right than wrong" with TransLink's current structure.

B.C. Conservative responses highlight their plans to scrap the carbon tax, although critics question where the lost revenue would be recovered.

The NDP pledge to redirect some carbon tax revenue (now going to corporate tax reduction) to public transit initiatives.

The Greens support a higher, more "robust" carbon tax. They say using some of the increase for transit may make sense, but the revenue-neutral model – where income taxes drop as the carbon tax rises – gives people a stronger incentive over the longer term to choose a lower-emission lifestyle.

The Liberals defended carbon tax revenue-neutrality, saying funds can't be diverted from it without raising taxes on individuals and families.

Other NDP pledges in the responses to Metro include ending a BC Liberal requirement that provincial grants go to municipal or regional infrastructure projects only if they've been studied as potential public-private partnerships (P3s).

On how to protect viable agricultural land in the ALR from encroachment by industry, the NDP pledge to renew the Agricultural Land Commission and protect the ALR, in concert with various support programs for agriculture.

The Greens caution the ALR is "popular with urbanites" but can hurt farmers as it restricts their ability to realize a reasonable return from their land when they retire.

Greens also said tough sewage treatment standards imposed by the federal government reflect "one-size-fits-all" thinking and it would help renegotiate the requirements with Ottawa to reduce the $1.4-billion bill to rebuild Metro treatment plants.

On the question of how Metro should keep pace with growing population and demand on its infrastructure, the Greens said the region should not continue with unlimited growth but should look to other tools to cap populations at sustainable levels.

The Liberals highlighted their construction of 21,000 units of new affordable housing in response to questions on the housing affordability crisis in Metro.


Updated: This story was revised May 8 to include answers filed by the BC Liberals on May 7.
For all the Metro questions and answers from the parties see localgovernmentmatters.ca.

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