Premier Christy Clark at a campaign appearance on the new Port Mann Bridge. She has said she's against slapping more tolls on existing bridges or roads.

Pipeline twinning, TransLink tolling decisions stay in Liberal hands

Regional issues will hinge on Clark, not NDP promises

Kinder Morgan’s proposed twinning of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline through the Lower Mainland looks more likely with the B.C. Liberals staying in power than if the NDP had won Tuesday’s election.

NDP leader Adrian Dix had vowed to block a big increase in oil tanker exports from Metro Vancouver.

His reversal of a previous pledge to wait for a formal project application became a major campaign issue.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Premier Christy Clark said she believed the TV debate was the turning point of the campaign for the Liberal rebound and that the NDP’s Kinder Morgan position was a factor.

Clark said voters weren’t impressed by “the idea that you’re going to say ‘No’ to economic development before you even see it.”

She stressed the province will put any Kinder Morgan proposal to the same requirements as the planned Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat, including world-leading safeguards against ocean and land spills as well as a substantial share of benefits for B.C.’s risk.

“The five conditions aren’t going to change,” Clark said. “Any expansion of heavy oil is going to have to meet those five conditions.”

The Trans Mountain pipeline from northern Alberta to Burnaby has operated for more than 50 years but Kinder Morgan wants to nearly triple its flow to 890,000 barrels per day, resulting in many more oil tankers plying Vancouver harbour.

Another issue that awaits Clark’s new government will be what to do with TransLink.

Metro Vancouver mayors have demanded a major reform of the transportation authority’s governance structure.

The NDP had promised to restore control to locally elected representatives, while the Liberals said on the campaign trail there was more right than wrong with TransLink’s current structure.

But the bigger issue for transit users is how billions of dollars will be raised to build major rapid transit extensions in Surrey and Vancouver.

Mayors have sought various new revenue tools for TransLink, from an annual vehicle levy to a small new regional sales tax.

Clark pledged during the campaign that any new tax or fee for TransLink would have to be approved by voters in a referendum in November of 2014, a promise that alarmed transit advocates.

Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, who had served as vice-chair of the TransLink mayors’ council, is the newly elected Liberal MLA for Surrey-Fleetwood, the riding that a new SkyTrain line could pass through on the way to Langley.

He said better transportation south of the Fraser will be a priority and the government will work to clarify its vision for TransLink.

Fassbender also chided his nemesis on the mayors’ council – Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan – for fomenting opposition to the Liberals in civic circles.

“Derek Corrigan, on the mayors’ council for the last year, year and a half, said ‘the Liberals are toast, they’re done, it’s over. We’re going to have a new government.’ And we do have a new government,” Fassbender said, adding it’s time for all local leaders to now work together.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts and other regional leaders have said some form of road pricing or broad-based tolling would be the best way to refinance TransLink for the long term.

Clark, however, ruled out new tolls on existing bridges or roads during the campaign.

It remains unclear how her government will pay for major new bridge projects – such as the promised replacements of the Massey Tunnel and Pattullo Bridge – if not through more tolls.

Other contentious decisions in the Lower Mainland that will be up to Clark’s new government include:

– Approval of a Metro Vancouver plan, still in the works, to build a new waste-to-energy incinerator.

– Approval of a new jet fuel pipeline to Vancouver airport that would bring tankers into the mouth of the Fraser River.

– Whether to support or oppose further expansion of Port Metro Vancouver, from a new coal export terminal in Surrey to a massive increase in container handling at Deltaport.

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