Taxing Commuters

Author: Kris Sims 2020/11/19

A version of this column first appeared in The Orca on Friday, Nov. 13.

It is now FREE for reprinting

British Columbians cannot afford new taxes on driving and all levels of government need to scrap plans to impose them.

The issue of “mobility pricing” was raised during the provincial election, with CKNW host Mike Smyth asking Premier John Horgan if he would put a stop to it. Horgan skated around his answer so well it would have made Elvis Stojko envious.

Horgan said it was up to TransLink – the regional bus board that helps rule the roost in Metro Vancouver – but he left out the part where one of his provincial cabinet ministers is actually responsible for TransLink and it’s the province that decides if TransLink can take more money from drivers in gas taxes.

Provincial election ballots were hardly counted before City of Vancouver staff dropped a 371 page report. The centrepiece was something the bureaucrats had labelled “transport pricing.”

See what they did there?

Folk who work, vote, drive and pay taxes didn’t like the last report about “congestion fees” very much and they weren’t big fans of the earlier talk of “mobility pricing” either.

So, the well-heeled masters of urban planning at Vancouver City Hall named this new tax grab “transport pricing” instead.

How much will it cost? The 371 page report is long on jargon that envisions city employees patrolling your street and charging you taxes based on the age and value of the car parked in front of your home, but it’s short on gritty details such as the money that they actually will charge you to drive on Vancouver’s streets.

On page 65 of the report, staff say the transport pricing scheme could bring in “tens of millions of dollars or more” per year. And, on page six of 11 of Appendix A of the report, it reads “the strategy is estimated to generate community proceeds of between $170 million to $290 million per year, net of operating costs.”

Other than those mentions, the pricing is largely missing from “transport pricing.”

Let’s dispense with the euphemisms and speak plainly:

These are driving taxes and they will cost you a lot of money.

Vancouver City staff say they are building on previous reports, so, to get a better indicator of how much these new driving taxes could cost you, we should look at that earlier report on driving taxes.

The Metro Vancouver Mobility Pricing Study was released in May, 2018, and it cost taxpayers more than $2 million to produce. Former NDP cabinet minister Joy MacPhail headed up the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission that Premier Horgan now seems to have forgotten about.

That report was 378 pages long and on page 37 it shows a chart listing the “Min” and “Min+” amounts for the tolls they are recommending for Metro Vancouver’s bridges.

Under this plan, it would cost you $6.37 to drive one-way over the Port Mann Bridge in the morning and $8.27 coming back after work. That’s $14.64 per day, or more than $3,600 for the year for a full time commuter. Same price for the Queensborough and Pattullo Bridges.

Imagine a two car commuter family from Abbotsford, Langley or Surrey trying to manage these new costs. That’s more than $6,000 extra per year.

Drivers already pay 51 cents per litre in taxes on gasoline in Metro Vancouver, costing $35 extra to fill up a minivan and $61 extra in taxes to fill up a light duty pick up truck.

Bureaucrats in Metro Vancouver are obsessed with imposing new driving taxes on British Columbians.

They won’t stop unless we tell elected politicians to stop them.

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