MERRITT, B.C. — B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell travelled to Merritt recently to defend the province’s plan to examine a public-private partnership for the Coquihalla Hwy.
Campbell told local officials they have benefited greatly from ‘the Coq’ and they should remember that when considering the implementation of tollbooths between Merritt and Hope.
While many local residents still oppose the tolls, Campbell says, “I don’t think in the short term the toll’s going off the Coquihalla.”
Campbell was put on the hot seat, and asked why the province would seek a private partnership when the highway is already built. He responded by implying a privately owned company could assume the highway’s debt. He also said although government has lower borrowing costs than the private sector, “The private sector is usually far more disciplined in their expenditure.”
Before returning to Victoria, Campbell was non-committal about the future of the toll highway. He didn’t close the door on a public-private partnership or full-public management of the highway. He did, however, take a poke at the public sector by saying “There are people in the public sector who say we shouldn’t change…who say we can do it best. Well, I’d like to ask people to look at the results. Do we have the transportation system we need now? Because what I’ve seen is a deterioration of the transportation system over the past decade.”
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