ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - A lot has changed in B.C. over the past year, with the B.C. Liberals' first year in charge recently coming to an end. The Liberals won a landslide election the last time West Coaste...
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – A lot has changed in B.C. over the past year, with the B.C. Liberals’ first year in charge recently coming to an end. The Liberals won a landslide election the last time West Coasters went to the polls, thanks to a campaign based on tax cuts and decreased spending.
Truck News caught up with BCTA president, Paul Landry at Truxpo 2002 in Abbotsford to see what’s on the mind of B.C. trucking companies and their most vocal supporter.
With the Liberals promising to reduce spending, there has been a lot of talk of encouraging more private involvement in the province’s highways system. Earlier this year, legislation was passed approving public-private partnerships – P3s – and that has triggered some concern for the BCTA.
The lobby group has recently finished a position paper on P3s and tolling, which will be submitted to Transport Minister, Judith Reid.
“Essentially, our position is that we appreciate government isn’t going to have the funds to do all the things that need to be done, so we think the private sector does have an important role to play,” says Landry.
“However, we see that role being supplementary to government investments. We don’t accept the notion that the government’s role will continue to decline all the time.”
With more than $1 billion collected by the province in fuel taxes and licensing fees, Landry says it’s crucial that money is re-invested in the province’s infrastructure.
“There seems to be some sense on the part of the provincial government that the private sector is going to somehow take over the lead role in terms of improvements, and we don’t see how that’s possible,” says Landry.
Working with TransLink
The BCTA and the regional transit body of TransLink haven’t always seen eye to eye on transportation issues, and not much has changed there.
Currently, there is a four cents per litre fuel tax in the Greater Vancouver Area, with those funds being passed on to TransLink for investment in regional transportation projects.
The BCTA and TransLink, however, have vastly different ideas on how that money should be spent.
“I wouldn’t say we’re at loggerheads with TransLink,” says Landry. “I think we still fundamentally have different views in terms of what the future should look like.”
The BCTA wants to see more money invested in roadways while for TransLink, the emphasis has been on public transit (despite the fact its efforts to increase ridership have been fruitless so far).
“We don’t think road users are getting a fair shake,” says Landry. “TransLink keeps talking about the importance of freight transportation and the importance of the major road network in the Lower Mainland but I guess they view it a little bit like the weather – lots of talk about it but not much has been done.”
A frightful scenario
Another key issue demanding a lot of attention from the BCTA is the Community Charter legislation announced by the province last spring. This proposed legislation downloads more authority from the province into the hands of municipalities.
It’s possible municipalities could begin implementing new fuel taxes and tolls, or even restrict the usage of municipal roads to certain types of traffic. But that’s not all.
“The draft legislation contemplated the possibility of municipalities regulating fleet sizes and rates for motor carriers,” explains Landry. “You can imagine us being faced with 200 mini motor carrier commissions across the province.”
The BCTA and other groups representing various businesses were quick to oppose the legislation, and the Liberals have agreed to put it off while more consultation is done.
When Prime Minister Jean Chretien hinted at twinning the Trans-Canada Highway from coast-to-coast, Landry wrote a letter advising the feds to concentrate on the sections of road that see the most congestion, rather than twinning the whole thing arbitrarily.
Likewise, when Vancouver decided to pursue the 2010 Winter Olympic games, the BCTA was concerned money would be invested in the Sea-to-Sky Hwy. while more important roadways are neglected. While the association realizes the Sea-to-Sky is in need of safety improvements, Landry says there are other areas in the same situation.
“We need to get to the rest of Canada, we need to get to the border,” says Landry. “We don’t need to get to Whistler or for that matter, from Richmond to Vancouver on rapid transit.”
The BCTA continues to keep a close eye on how the province is spending its money on roads, and hopes the most congested areas get priority. That goes for the Pacific Hwy. border crossing as well, where truck backups have hit a boiling point.
“From Monday to Friday at any given time, you can be backed up for three, four or five hours,” says Landry.
“We’ve had situations where Owner/Operators have literally, after sitting in line for many, many hours, just turned around and went back home, load still on the truck.”
Landry had a meeting lined up with customs representatives from both side of the border in the days following Truxpo, where he hoped to bring more attention to the situation.