COLUMN: Is the end near for the B.C. Liberals?

Continued inaction or fumbling of the bridge tolling issue will drive away Liberal support in key Surrey and North Delta ridings.

The B.C. Liberals are risking a substantial loss of support in the May 2017 election with a continued do-nothing approach to bridge tolling.

Independent Delta MLA Vicki Huntington and Delta Mayor Lois Jackson exposed the B.C. Liberals’ weakness on this issue last week, when discussing Jackson’s call for a $1 toll on all bridges in the Metro Vancouver region. Jackson’s press release calling for $1 tolls say they would encourage drivers to use the most convenient crossing and at the same time collect the toll revenue needed to pay for existing toll bridge financing obligations.

Unlike Transportation Minister Todd Stone, who lives in Kamloops and knows little about Metro Vancouver traffic congestion, or Premier Christy Clark, who represents West Kelowna in the legislature and has never lived south of the Fraser, Jackson knows what she is talking about. Her concern is that the Alex Fraser Bridge is rapidly becoming the most congested bridge in the region, and both Stone and Clark seem completely oblivious to the problems that creates.

The 2011 daily traffic counts on the region’s bridges had the Alex Fraser second to the Ironworkers Memorial (Second Narrows), with 117,000 vehicles crossing per day. The Second Narrows had 127,000. The Port Mann at that time had 112,000 vehicles crossing per day. That was the old five-lane Port Mann Bridge, which wasn’t tolled. The new Port Mann is attracting significantly less traffic.

Many of those vehicles have migrated to the Alex Fraser and to a lesser extent the Pattullo, which in 2011 had 68,000 vehicles crossing per day. The Pattullo is hopelessly thick with traffic all day, every day during the work week, and many large trucks use it.

Stone and Clark have stated a new bridge taking the place of the Massey Tunnel will be tolled. The Surrey and New Westminster mayors recently agreed that any replacement for the Pattullo will be tolled. If nothing else changes, that means there will be five crossings of the Fraser between Langley and Delta and four of them will be tolled. At the same time, there will be no other toll bridges in the province.

That will put enormous pressure on the Alex Fraser, Highway 91, the roads leading to the highway such as Nordel Way and 72 Avenue, and on the Queensborough Bridge in New Westminster.

Stone said there is no rush to review the provincial tolling policy, as any new bridges are at least five or six years away. Clark backed that stance, saying the province doesn’t know if it will get federal money for bridge projects and thus can’t make policy changes right away.

Both explanations are weak at best. People who live south of the Fraser and cross the tolled bridges are paying substantial amounts of money to get to work and school. Other commuters, some of whom use new bridges such as the Pitt River Bridge, pay nothing.

Clark likely doesn’t want to stir discontent in Liberal-held ridings where most people don’t pay tolls, such as those in areas of Vancouver, North Shore, Burnaby, Richmond and parts of the Tri-Cities area.

However, the natives are restless in all those ridings over other issues, such as the rising cost of housing. The B.C. Liberals are also under pressure to produce tangible results on at least one LNG plant – the primary promise of the 2013 election campaign.

Continued inaction or fumbling of the bridge tolling issue will drive away Liberal support in key Surrey ridings, in North Delta and perhaps in the two Maple Ridge ridings as well. The loss of a number of ridings in the outer areas of Metro Vancouver could mean the difference between a win or a loss for the B.C. Liberals next year.

Frank Bucholtz writes weekly for The Leader.

 

Surrey North Delta Leader

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

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP cruisers outside a Newton townhouse Tuesday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
UPDATE: Toddler in hospital, woman dead following stabbings at Surrey townhouse

Police say two-year-old was among victims found at townhouse complex in the 12700-block of 66 Avenue

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Oct. 18

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson bottle-feeds a calf at a dairy farm in South Surrey Tuesday morning. (Aaron Hinks photo)
BC Liberal Leader makes stop in South Surrey

Business tax, mental health supports among topics addressed by Andrew Wilkinson

Signs at a new COVID-19 testing and collection centre at 14577 66th Ave. in Surrey. It was relocated from an urgent primary care centre near Surrey Memorial Hospital. This new centre allows for up to 800 tests per day, which is 550 more than the previous centre, according to Fraser Health. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey’s COVID-19 case count exceeds 1,800

About 800 new cases in September

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Nine Surrey schools reporting COVID-19 exposures

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

A Tim Hortons employee hands out coffee from a drive-through window to a customer in Mississauga, Ont., on March 17, 2020. Tim Hortons is ending the practice of double cupping hot drinks, a move the fast food restaurant says will eliminate hundreds of millions of cups from landfills each year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
The end of double cupping: Tim Hortons ditches two cups in favour of one with sleeve

Most recycling facilities in Canada don’t recycle single use paper coffee cups because of a plastic lining

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer doctor Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s chief public health doctor says in the age of social media, fake news about the COVID-19 pandemic has been spreading faster than the virus itself. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
VIDEO: Fake news creates serious issues for battling pandemic, chief public health doc says

Both Tam and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to be responsible about the information they share

Maple Meadows Station’s new Bike Parkade. TransLink photo
TransLink to remove abandoned or discarded bicycles from bike parkades

Rules at TransLink bike parkades ask customers to use facilities for single day use only

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Most Read