Metro Vancouver may be hit with a second carbon tax

Lekstrom says Victoria won't share existing tax flow with TransLink

Any move to fund TransLink expansion with carbon tax revenue would be by creating a new “regional carbon tax” that would be charged in addition to the existing one, according to Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom.

He was responding to NDP questions in the legislature last week after Premier Christy Clark indicated the government would consider using a share of carbon tax revenues – a longstanding request from the regional mayors council.

Lekstrom, however, said the province won’t share revenue now collected through the current carbon tax but would instead consider creating a second Metro Vancouver-only version.

“This would be on top of the existing one,” Lekstrom said, adding the “regional carbon tax levy” could be one of a bundle of funding options the mayors may propose for TransLink to avoid raising property taxes further.

Area cities are united in seeking much more money for TransLink to fund not just the region’s $400-million share of the stalled Evergreen Line but also additional rapid transit lines and other priorities for expansion.

Lekstrom said the existing carbon tax is fully committed by legislation to offsetting tax relief, so there’s no legal mechanism for it to be shared.

B.C.’s carbon tax, now at 4.45 cents on gasoline, rises to 5.56 cents July 1 and 6.67 cents in mid-2012.

It currently raises about $1.1 billion a year, with close to 40 per cent of that coming from the Lower Mainland.

That’s significantly more than the $325 million TransLink raises from its 15-cent-a-litre gas tax in the region because the carbon tax also applies on home heating and industrial fuels.

Mayors council chair Richard Walton said he’s not sure whether the regional carbon tax contemplated by the province would also cover home heating, but said that makes sense, as otherwise TransLink could simply raise its existing fuel tax if motorists were to be the sole target.

Lekstrom did not make it clear whether the province could split off the next two increases in the carbon tax levied on Metro residents for TransLink.

But Walton said it seems improbable.

“Those lifts are in existing legislation,” he said. “I would find it highly unlikely. It would require new legislation and the next session of government could be 10 months away.”

NDP transportation critic Harry Bains said the province should have suspended tax breaks to corporations effective Jan. 1 so that at least the pending increases in the carbon tax could go to TransLink.

“This is a surprise they’re throwing at the public,” he said of a second carbon tax.

He also said the province should trust that the funding impasse with the region will be resolved and initiate the construction of the Evergreen Line now.

“The government has to show leadership,” Bains said. “Just because the mayors cannot agree on something doesn’t mean the people on the ground level in the northeast sector do not deserve that line.”

Lekstrom told a legislative committee Monday the long-delayed SkyTrain extension from Burnaby to Port Moody and Coquitlam won’t be open to riders before late in 2015 at the earliest.

He said the province won’t put the $1.4-billion Evergreen Line out to tender until there’s a deal with the mayors council to fund TransLink’s share.

That’s because it takes a minimum four years to build and there’s no contract yet finalized with three short-listed bidders from an original seven that responded to a request for qualifications 10 months ago, Lekstrom said.

He warned a longer delay could put the procurement process at risk and result in even longer delays if the remaining bidders give up waiting for the project to go to tender and drop out.

“We’re very fortunate that those three have hung on. I don’t know how long they will hang on.”

What happens next is up to the mayors, Lekstrom said.

“The ball is really in their court,” he said, adding the province won’t be putting up money beyond its $410-million commitment or launching the project without the cities on board.

“My goal is to have, first, the Evergreen dealt with, and then the longer-range plan, obviously, is to find a solution so that we’re not back dealing with one-offs, whether it be the UBC line or any of the others,” Lekstrom said.

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

BREAKING: Cloverdale McDonald’s employee tests positive for COVID-19

McDonald’s Canada immediately shut down the restaurant

Surrey kids get cooking during free SuperChefs camps pushed online by pandemic

‘Enthusiastic’ launch of program, which sees ingredient pickup at one local school

Southridge students raise $5,600 for hospital meal program

GoFundMe campaign funds two months of meals at Peace Arch Hospital

Court awards woman $143K for two Whalley rear-ender crashes, one by a bus

In both cases, Brigitte Bergeron’s vehicle was hit from behind while stopped at an intersection

Surrey RCMP searching for missing woman last seen in Crescent Beach

Milcah Kasomali-Chirumbwana last seen at 4:35 p.m. July 5 in the 12300-block of Beecher Street

Horrifying video shows near head-on collision on Trans Canada

The video was captured on dash cam along Highway 1

Fraser Valley woman complains of violent RCMP takedown during wellness check

Mounties respond that she was not co-operating during Mental Health Act apprehension

B.C. sees 12 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths

Three outbreaks exist in health-care settings

Lost dog swims Columbia River multiple times searching for home

The dog was missing from his Castlegar home for three days.

COVID-19: B.C. promotes video-activated services card

Mobile app allows easier video identity verification

ICBC to resume road tests in July with priority for rebookings, health-care workers

Tests have been on hold for four months due to COVID-19

Would you take a COVID-19 vaccine? Poll suggests most Canadians say yes

75 per cent of Canadians would agree to take a novel coronavirus vaccine

Abbotsford school vice-principal accused of getting Instagram ‘confessions’ page shut down

@A.S.S.S.Confessions page claims school officials contacted families to find out person behind page

Recreational chinook openings leave First Nations frustrated on the Lower Fraser

Limited recreational openings for chinook on the Chehalis and Chilliwack rivers being questioned

Most Read