Carson Binda is the British Columbia Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation
It’s a bit like swearing off of sweets, but asking to see the dessert menu.
The city of Vancouver has spent $1.5 million to investigate a new so-called transport tax that would hit everyday commuters driving into the heart of the city. Meanwhile, Mayor Kennedy Stewart has claimed that he’s not in favour in the transport tax. So why would the mayor spend millions of dollars on a project that he has no interest in?
Let’s be honest about what this transport tax and planned toll wall really is: It’s a tax on driving that will cut off downtown Vancouver’s businesses and residents from the rest of the Lower Mainland.
The proposed electronic toll wall would stretch from Clark to Burrard, and from West 16th Avenue up to Coal Harbour’s waterfront. That’s the core of Vancouver’s downtown, including major hospitals, the library and city hall.
Beyond hurting families and businesses, new transport taxes are also an objectively ineffective way for the city to generate revenue. According to the city’s own numbers, the overhead costs just to implement the proposed toll wall would slap taxpayers with a whopping $250 million bill.
This initial, overhead-cost includes the creation of technological infrastructure, including cameras which will scan and track the licence plates of vehicles travelling into Vancouver.
On top of the overhead costs, the tolls will also cost taxpayers a total of $60 to $80 million annually. These two numbers mean that in the first year of the toll wall alone, taxpayers would be slapped with a bill of up to $330 million.
The last time this kind of mobility tax was dreamed-up by bureaucrats, we spent $2 million on the study that recommended charging a driver up to $3,600 a year just to cross our major bridges. But this time, the city’s reports and memos will not even tell us how much this tax hike will cost individual residents.
City hall sure likes to talk about taxes, until it’s time to tell people how much it is actually going to cost them.
Now, Stewart is hiring staff with transport pricing in the job title even though he says he’s against the policy. Call it what you will – transport pricing or a toll wall – it’s all the same thing: another tax.
If a family living in Maple Ridge wants to take their kids to Science World, they will be hit with tolls. A Kitsilano senior citizen who needs to go to Saint Paul’s or Vancouver General Hospital for treatments once a week will be hit with tolls. A waitress working downtown and driving her car home to Surrey at night will be hit with these tolls.
We can’t afford new driving taxes and toll walls.
Many people can barely afford to pay for the basics of food, housing, and energy. We cannot afford to pay tolls just to access the services and culture that once made Vancouver the world-class city it is.
Right now, tens of thousands of British Columbians face homelessness, and hundreds of small businesses in Vancouver have shut their doors for good. However, instead of making life more affordable, the city has been spending millions to dream-up a huge tax hike on people who drive cars.
Businesses in the downtown core are struggling to stay open because of rising inflation, fuel taxes, the COVID aftermath and city hall’s inescapable red tape. Now, more than ever, they need help attracting more consumer activity, not new taxes preventing people from accessing the gems of West Coast culture in Vancouver.
If Stewart wants to claim that he is not serious about this toll wall, then why did he vote in favour of studying it? Why has he been spending $1.5 million, after commissioning a $2-million report to investigate it? His actions show that either he’s not telling the truth about his plan to implement the new tax on drivers, or he is wasting taxpayers’ money.