The new NDP government is following through on one of their key campaign promises.
At a press conference in Port Coquitlam Friday morning, Premier John Horgan announced they will be eliminating tolls on both the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges.
It will come into effect Sept. 1.
“These tolls are unfair… you shouldn’t have to pay tolls because of where you live,” Horgan said. “This is about making life a little easier.”
It was a main campaign promise by the NDP and many say it’s the reason they won the election. Getting rid of the tolls translated into a number of seats in the eastern suburbs of the Lower Mainland.
It is still unknown how the NDP will pay for it. During the campaign, Horgan presented the idea of dipping into the former government’s $500-million prosperity fund.
Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena said while the new announcement is exciting there will be more than 90 people, who work in the tolling operations, that will be impacted by this decision. The Transportation Investment Corporation (TI Corp), the Crown Corporation that implemented and manages TREO tolling operations for the bridge, has two offices.
In May, Horgan said eliminating the tolls would be a priority despite the opposition from their ally, the Green Party.
“We’re going to work with the Mayors’ Council, we’re going to work with members of the legislature to come up with a framework to build the transit and transportation infrastructure we need in British Columbia but we’re going to do it in a way that is fair to all British Columbians,” Horgan said at the time.
WATCH: Questions about the removal of bridge tolls were addressed in Friday’s press conference
B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver called the government’s announcement on Friday a “reckless policy.”
In a written statement Weaver said:
“There is no question that the affordability crisis facing so many British Columbians is a significant concern. However, this policy is high cost and low impact. There are lots of good, high return-on-investments decisions that government can make, such as education, student housing and child care. It is disappointing that the first major measure that this government has taken to make life more affordable for British Columbians will add billions of dollars to taxpayer-supported debt. Moreover, making such a massive addition to our debt risks raising interest on all debt, which ultimately prevents government from being able to invest more in important social programs. Tolls are an excellent policy tool to manage transport demand. Transport demand management reduces pollution and emissions, alleviates congestion and helps pay for costly infrastructure.”
LISTEN: Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver reacts to eliminating tolls on the Port Mann & Golden Ears bridges
With tolls being eliminated, Metro Vancouver drivers could end up facing some sort of “mobility pricing,” an idea that the Mayors’ Council believes could help pay for billions of dollars in transit and infrastructure improvements.
“Mobility pricing” is an approach that involves charging people for their use of the road network, using tools such as road tolls, as mentioned in the Mayors’ Council’s 10-Year Metro Vancouver Transportation Plan.
Simply put, mobility pricing means the more you drive, the more you pay.
Advocates say mobility pricing is a more fair way to pay for infrastructure projects, as it transfers the costs of roads and bridges to the people who use them most. They also say it could reduce congestion.
Horgan did say anyone with outstanding tolls as of Aug. 31 will be required to pay.
~ with files from Jon Azpiri