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.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Bloodhounds join the search for missing Chilliwack woman

Petsearchers Canada arrive in town Monday afternoon to help out

‘No little nook and cranny that’s too small’ in search for Chilliwack woman, say RCMP

Residents urged by police to assist in search for Grace Baranyk by checking property thoroughly

Search continues for missing elderly woman in Chilliwack

RCMP, Chilliwack Search and Rescue and community members combing area for Grace Baranyk

Big Chill a hot event in Langley

Flight Museum holds “ask the pilot panel” and demos flights for young pilots over the weekend

VIDEO: Hiker airlifted from Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park Sunday

Park east of Chilliwack popular with tourist and B.C. residents who walk up to the falls

‘Bad choices make good stories’: Margaret Trudeau brings her show to Just for Laughs

Trudeau says over the decades she has been suicidal, manic, depressed

UPDATE: Youth seen with gun at Nanaimo mall, suspect now in custody

Woodgrove Centre shut down during police incident

B.C. man dies from rabies after contact with Vancouver Island bat

Last known case of human rabies in B.C. was 16 years ago

Crown recommends up to two-year jail term for former Bountiful leader

Crown says sentence range should be 18 months to two years for Bountiful child removal case

B.C.-wide police efforts identify Vancouver Island robbery suspect

Warrant issued for arrest of North Vancouver man for TD Bank robbery

VIDEO: Wolf spotted swimming ashore on northern Vancouver Island

Island wolf population estimated at under 150 in 2008, says VI-Wilds

Diversity a Canadian strength, Trudeau says of Trump tweets at congresswomen

Trudeau avoided using Trump’s name when he was asked about the president’s Twitter comments

B.C. couple bring son home from Nigeria after long adoption delay

Kim and Clark Moran of Abbotsford spent almost a year waiting to finalize adoption of Ayo, 3

Garneau ‘disappointed’ in airlines’ move against new passenger bill of rights

New rules codified compensation for lost luggage, overbooked flights

Most Read