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That the BC Liberals should have such a conversion, on the eve of an election campaign, is kind of like Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus

The latest fooferaw over bridge tolling policy is a prime example of what has gone so badly wrong in B.C. politics.

Government of BC, Todd Stone, Kamloops, MLA
Kamloops MLA, and Minister of Transportation, Todd Stone
on hand for "Completion" notice of the Port Mann Bridge
It began with the B.C. Liberal Party government's pronouncement Sunday, by Finance Minister Mike de Jong, that if they are re-elected in the May 9 provincial election they will put a cap on bridge tolls of ("only?") $500 a year, saving some regular commuters about $1,000 a year but doing nothing to help less frequent users.

That the Liberals should have such a conversion on the eve of an election campaign is kind of like Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus: it reverses many years of an opposite policy. But of course it still doesn't address the underlying problems in financing transportation projects in Metro Vancouver and around the province, namely that the Liberals' new quasi-privatized bridges have become chronic money-losers for the provincial government.

The ink was barely dry on the de Jong story, leaked to the Vancouver Province, when B.C. New Democratic Party leader John Horgan announced that if the NDP wins the election they will remove tolls entirely.  Of course he didn't explain how that move would be paid for, let alone how it would be done when there are some complex P-3 contracts in place in which the private sector ostensibly helped pay for constructing the new and money-losing Port Mann Bridge.  Presumably he would do so again on the dubious but Liberal-promised Massey Bridge (replacing the Deas Island tunnel of the same Massey name), and on the long-overdue replacement of the decrepit Pattullo Bridge between Surrey and New Westminster.

The folly of the Liberals' bridge financing model is seen in the fact that many thousands of drivers will go far out of their way to avoid the perceivably over-priced tolls on the Port Mann Bridge - some of which reflect the extra costs of the P3 model imposed by former premier Gordon Campbell in order to use the still-free Pattullo bridge, thereby creating an often huge traffic congestion problem there.

But now on the eve of an election the Liberals have noticed they're in danger of losing so, like a chronic gambler, they've doubled down on an even more ludicrous bet and then the New Democrats double down on that.

The B.C. Green Party meanwhile signaled that their heads are in the sand too by indicating they would retain the tolling policy apparently as an environmental policy designed to discourage driving to work.  Instead their policy is to "encourage" more people to car-pool or use transit, even though it should be obvious that those choices are impractical, or simply not available to most commuters. But hey who cares when we're supposedly saving the world from catastrophic climate change eh?

To be fair, there should be lots of room in B.C.'s rubber budgets to find a few hundred million dollars to subsidize transportation that facilitates commerce - except of course that the Liberals for the last 16 years have been pillaging the Crown corporations' savings accounts to falsely make it look like B.C. has had a string of balanced budgets and Canada's strongest economy and many other such claims, all dubious when one digs down for the facts.

Canada's lowest unemployment?

Only because the other provinces are worse and the many discouraged workers here who have given up seeking work aren't counted in the official stats.

Canada's strongest economy?

Again only because all the others are turtles in the tank, and the reality is that B.C.'s economy and government have been grossly under-performing for at least 20 years (i.e. since before Campbell was elected in 2001).  That's due to a combination of factors that neither the Liberals nor the New Democrats have adequately addressed and on which the Greens are hopelessly out of touch with their extreme anti-carbon policies.

All of which is a good reason why I decided on Friday to leave the B.C. Conservative Party, and become leader of the small but venerable B.C. First Party, which will be made official later this week with Elections B.C.

For me the focus will be on proposals to grow the economy, build B.C., create more jobs and spread prosperity to all - which is also why I thought the B.C. Conservatives would be a good fit for me, and I joined them about three years when I was attracted by its former leader Dan Brooks*

I have a list of at least 50 innovative policy ideas to improve British Columbia, many of them apparently too radical for the B.C. Conservatives' board of directors, such as reviving the Bank of B.C. as an investment bank (not a mere retail bank), issuing a new parallel currency (not supplanting the Canadian and American dollars), and reviving B.C.'s Treasury Branches and Government Agents services to help preserve small rural communities.  These care just a few of many other unique, but actually practical proposals.

Now as the Leader of B.C. First I'll be in a good position to advance them.  C'mon along! It should be a quite interesting ride.

John Twigg, is the newly minted leader of BC First. He was until recently the Policy and Communications Director for the BC Conservative Party

* who also encountered problems with its board of directors, many of whom are also federal Conservatives who believe there should be a unified coalition to keep the NDP out of power in B.C. even though the horse being used to do so - the B.C. Liberal Party - has become demonstrably inept and even corrupt).


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