Governance & Politics
February 17, 2018

Pattullo: A question for Andrew Wilkinson

From the CBC:

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson questioned why the provincial government couldn’t get federal funding for the Pattullo Bridge replacement as well.
“Normally major infrastructure projects have a large component of federal financing. So we have to be concerned that B.C. rushed into this alone, and missed out on almost a half billion dollars of federal infrastructure funding,” he said.

 
Do tell us how much the federal government had committed to the Massey crossing when it was pulled out of the air by Premier Clark in 2013.  Or whether in subsequent years the Feds ever committed a loonie to its construction.
And while you’re at it, please explain:

  • What regional plan included the construction of Massey?
  • How many Metro mayors in the region supported it?
  • What provincial transportation plan prioritized it?
  • Why the previous transportation minister, Kevin Falcon, had rejected it as a pointless project?
  • Why the Liberals imposed a referendum requirement only for transit and not for Massey or any other major highway project?

Do tell.
 

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Get a little bit of rain and everyone gets back to business in Vancouver where the The CBC reports on the optimism arising from Greg Moore, the chair of Metro Vancouver and the other cities that comprise this region.  Everyone knows that housing affordability and transportation are the two most important factors in every conversation about this region. The relationship with the new NDP government and the Metro Cities has been encouraging so far, in a refreshing type of way.
After dealing with the  transportation referendum debacle  for Metro Vancouver (which was part of the former premier’s election promises in 2013) the Mayors want to advance the Ten Year Mayors’ Vision they had all agreed upon (except for the Mayor of Delta) .  That plan includes increasing rapid transit in the region and replacing the aging Patullo bridge. And that time is now.
With the new Provincial government actually talking to the Mayors and with the multi-billion dollar Massey Bridge (which was unsupported in the region except by the Mayor of  Delta) on hold, there are now active talks on working together between the region and the Province  to fund the agreed upon transportation initiatives. Instead of the Mayors finding out about the Province’s transportation priorities in the newspaper, Transportation Minister Claire Trevena is following up on her  pledge to work directly with the regional municipalities on advancing their agreed upon plan. It was Mayor Mussatto of the City of North Vancouver that said it best-“The (previous) provincial government didn’t really value our input. We didn’t feel like we were playing as equals at the table.”
That appears to have changed, with more open lines of communication and a renewed interest in moving forward with the important task of making this region accessible to everyone.  As the Metro Vancouver chair Greg Moore observed about working with the new Provincial government  “We have disagreements on different things, but we work through them together. If you’re sitting at the table and working together, although you might have even major disagreements on one topic, you can still work together on other topics.”
It’s a simple and direct approach for these two levels of government to advance transportation and accessibility across the region.

 
 
 

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“The B.C. government is getting rid of tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges starting Sept. 1, Premier John Horgan has announced.”
The Premier and assorted ministers articulated the reasons they’re getting rid of tolls – effectively on all existing and new road-and-bridge projects:

  • Reduce costs for drivers
  • Reduce congestion
  • Reduce impediments to movement across the region

You can do one or two of those goals; you can’t, over time, do them all.  Less visible cost per trip, the more incentive to drive.  The more incentive to drive, the greater the likelihood of congestion.  And hence more impediment to movement – unless, of course, the belief is that we’ll build and widen more bridges and roads, which will all be ‘free’, thus continuing the fruitless cycle.
Three other impacts:

  • This is the end of the public-private partnership for funding infrastructure that requires a cash flow generated by the infrastructure funded.  (In other words, a perpetual money-machine, where debt to build infrastructure created more cash flow to generate more debt to build more infrastructure.)
  • Good luck to the ‘Mobility Pricing Independent Commission’ set up by the Mayors’ Council to explore the feasibility of road pricing.  The NDP decision today reinforces the notion that no senior government will accept a proposal that would require them to spend political capital to impose a visible charge on road users.
  • Though the government didn’t say so, I’m sure one of their goals would be to reduce sprawl in the Lower Mainland.  But as of today, that goal not only got so much harder, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an uptick in housing costs east of the Port Mann.
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In one of those puzzling moments, the Mayor of Delta has spoken out against the Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation-which the Mayor sits on. The Mayor’s Council has released its #CureCongestionGuide as reported in Price Tags here, taking a look at all the policies put forward by the various Provincial parties and ascertaining which parties will further the development of public transportation in this region. The parties were asked about their understanding and commitment to the Mayor’s ten-year vision for Metro Vancouver which included Surrey light rail and replacing the Pattullo bridge. The Mayors’ Council had a “scorecard” and gave the NDP a 3 out of 5 points in terms of their  transit and transportation platform and responses.
The Mayor of Delta is the only Mayor in the region that wants the ten lane, multi-billion dollar (estimates now suggest $8 billion with carrying costs) unsustainable Massey Bridge being built by the Province on the sensitive Fraser River delta.  The proposed new bridge goes right into her jurisdiction, and  the Mayor was the only positive vote for this monolith, with the other Mayors asking the Province for a reconsideration.

As reported by Ian Jacques in the Delta Optimist  the Mayor stated “I really believe that we have to stay out of the politics of it and send our message strong and clear to whoever is the successor. I think this goes too far,” she said. “We need to encourage people to get out to vote, but vote as you wish. Know the facts. Here at the facts from the TransLink area, but in terms of comparing parties and encouraging people to vote in a certain direction, I have a problem with that.”
The Mayor of Delta also doesn’t like that the other mayors are not supporting  the Province’s Massey bridge, ostensibly designed for congestion, but really overbuilt to accommodate LNG carrying ships on the Fraser River. “It is a huge connector for the west side of the Lower Mainland and to have it totally ignored in this fashion is quite insulting frankly and quite unacceptable to me. We have been working on this current proposal for five long years and to not have any mention of a proposal of this nature in the study is baffling.”
Mike Buda, executive director of the TransLink Mayors’ Council Secretariat actually made a lot of sense when he clearly stated “Voters need to understand the kind of role the mayors’ council is looking for of the next provincial government to support that 10-year vision.”  And that is true. The current Provincial government wants to conduct another transit referendum after the last disastrous exercise. While we all know that the key to affordability and accessibility in the region is good public transportation, no one needs to be dragged back into that expensive referendum process again. We need to move forward with a Provincial government willing to work in partnership with Metro Vancouver to keep the region affordable and accessible. And that means working hard and co-operatively for good regional public transportation.
But back to the Mayor of Delta-“They are talking about the Pattullo Bridge and that hasn’t been on the books nearly as long, so to my way of thinking, the argument that the Massey project is a provincial project is very thin.”
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There has been some disappointing rhetoric about bridges, tolls, and congestion coming out of the stirred soup of next month’s Provincial election. While one candidate wants to restrict Port Mann bridge vehicle tolls to a 500 dollar annual upset amount-after that you are driving for “free”-another candidate says they will take away tolls entirely. Of course both of these approaches will induce further demand for vehicular travel, and further accentuate the 20th century approach to motordom where the car is king. Missing in this posturing is the reasoned and prudent approach to encouraging mass transit and car share, moving in the region as if livability and accessibility matter.
Metro Vancouver mayors have been discussing an approach  reported by Marcello Bernardo with CKNW “seeking approval to toll all bridges, so the money collected can be spent on transit improvements, but there’s been resistance from Victoria. The Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges have also been losing money because many drivers take alternate toll-free crossings.”
In Metro Vancouver “Port Moody Mayor Mike Clay says both pledges send the wrong message.You need to pay for this infrastructure somehow and you need to make it a little bit of a social penalty for encouraging people not to drive everywhere in their cars.” Clay is one of several Metro Vancouver mayors pushing for every bridge crossing in the region to be tolled.“Why isn’t it a dollar or two dollars on every bridge crossing?”

Mayor Clay also mentions a conundrum-while gas tax go to fund transit systems, electric cars are not taxed, and  in “some cases, we’re supplying the electricity for the cars, so we need to be very careful about doing things that encourage sprawl and encourage the use of a single-occupant vehicle.”

And the big question-why are the political parties not talking to the Metro Vancouver Mayors Council about how to best move (no pun intended) the region forward? Most mayors will agree further growth and development needs to concentrate on transit hubs and stations, focusing on public transit, not the private automobile.

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