There’s been an active comment section to this post on mobility pricing (some of it even on topic) – but this recent one by Joe Sulmona is worth reprinting as a separate post. With his combination of technical experience and political smarts, Joe effectively explains why the prospect of visible tolling on BC’s roads and bridges is a non-starter, now or anytime soon:
“Bold progressive mobility pricing type Leadership” simply does NOT apply to current B.C. situation, when one of the current Premier’s first acts was to gut the tolling policy that loudly sent message to key constituents that they were treated unfairly by previous governments.
From what I can see, the principle “vested interest” here in B.C. is to get power, and once in power, stay in power. This is a maxim applicable regardless of political stripe, i.e. survival remains paramount ( and I work all over the world, and only the names’ change – the desired political outcome never does, never has, and I expect in my lifetime will likely remain so).
And while I remain bound by Cabinet confidence, 25 years ago I sat beside Horgan when he was chief communications advisor to Premier Clarke. It would appear the hard political lessons about the political risks of tolling from back then were well learned, and nothing has changed as we fast forward to today’s context.
“Bold leadership” that is NOT coercive towards constituents can rightly only come out of deep “trust” by those affected by the decision. So how does Horgan do 180 and with a straight-face say to south and east Metro regional residents “trust” me when I go in the opposite direction. This kind of behavior cost Gordon Campbell his job, in part, over the perceived HST flip-flop, And politicians who fail to learn these kinds of lessons, regardless of the quarter they come from, don’t last long – Horgan is smart and has been through many wars so he will be highly cautious to repeat the strategic/tactical failures of others, including political opponents.
And please remember in my time in Victoria, I tried to get both the Lion’s Gate Bridge and the Island Highway tolled, but the political forces, NDP at the time, simply could NOT get over the public acceptance hurdles (and these proposals never really got a significant public airing, unlike the Vehicle Levy that cost George Puil his job too).
The possibility may exist for a City of Vancouver type trial, but reality is that the CoV population is only 13% of total for B.C. and falling percentage-wise as Fraser Valley and Okanagan are growing faster. The politics of what Victoria might approve for CoV is NOT ignored elsewhere, so Cabinet will be very cautious to the inadvertent signals this may send to flippable ridings, which become easy pickings for opposition when the party in power mis-steps. And when reaching into the pockets of taxpayers, policy is NEVER FAR from naked politics.
And remember, Horgan is a long-time communications expert so I don’t believe he will miss too many messaging fiascos before they get released. Therefore, in my view, he made the calculated decision that the political gains from gutting the tolling policy far-outweighed the negative policy implications…and this decision was proven right in the last poll.
IMHO, “Mobility Pricing” was set back big time by the current government, and they must own this failure. The first step will be to re-build trust that structural change necessary, which may very well take NEW leadership at the very top as the current messengers have planted their non-tolling flag in a way hard to come back from.
Elsewhere, tolling and mobility pricing continue to make technological improvements. Here’s a current example from the EU: Greece begins pay-per-mile tolling to replace old ‘unfair’ toll charges