People living on the mainland of British Columbia and in the interior are once again complaining about the newest increase to highway tolls recently announced by the BC Highways Corporation.
David Hanes, the CEO of the newly minted BCHC, explained that under the corporation’s charter, the most recent increases are necessary to ensure that the corporation maintains its financial viability and has the resources available to continue to undertake the ongoing maintenance of the thousands of kilometres of highways in the province.
Mr. Hanes reinforced that the BC highway system is one of the most expensive in the country due to the geographic challenges posed by the mountains, the demanding topography, and the many rivers and waterways that make up such a large part of the province. He reminded drivers that the hundreds of bridges, difficult mountain terrain, the huge numbers of landslides, the unusual snowfalls due to climate change and the incessant demands of mainlanders to enhance the capacity of the highway system, have all contributed to these cost increases.
He did note that the proposed increases will have to be approved by BC Highways Commissioner, Marvin Cralley, and that residents of the mainland should be prepared to see continued increases throughout the next few years as the costs of asphalt and fuel rise.
Mr. Hanes did point out, with some pride, that drivers should see significant improvements soon, as BCHC has just contracted with a German firm to build six new bridges within the next two years. He advised that they would be built in Germany and floated to BC via the Panama Canal.
When this reporter contacted the Hon. Kevin Hawk, the Minister of Transportation for comment, Mr. Hawk reinforced that the BCHC was an independent corporation and he was unable to become involved as the corporation had been legislatively structured to avoid the political interference that was practiced by previous governments.
Hawks further pointed out that although the current government provided significant funding to the BCHC, people who chose to live on the mainland simply have to pay their fair share of the costs associated with their decision.
When asked why those living on the coasts of BC and the Islands were not faced with the same kinds of ferry cost increases, Mr. Hawk once again explained that those citizens who live on the islands and the coastal communities are served by BC Ferries which is a Crown Corporation. BC Ferries was put into place to provide service to the islands in a manner that recognizes BC as a marine province, founded on the principles that water transportation is a far more natural and sustainable method of moving goods and people and does not require the complicated infrastructure of a highway system.
When asked why the highway system was not funded to a greater degree by taxpayers’ dollars like the ferry system, Mr. Hawk replied “If people want to live on the mainland and in the interior, they need to shoulder a reasonable portion of the costs.”
When challenged on this statement, Mr. Hawk replied: “Boo hoo.”
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