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Premier discusses private-public partnerships

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- B.C. Premier, Gordon Campbell shed some more light on the province's public-private partnership...

VANCOUVER, B.C. — B.C. Premier, Gordon Campbell shed some more light on the province’s public-private partnership plans for highways when he attended a conference on the subject Monday.

He admitted the Coquihalla and Sea to Sky Highways are the two topping the list when it comes to finding private partners, and he wouldn’t rule out increased tolls on those roads and others.

“Tolls are just one way to fund things, right? But when someone says to me ‘why doesn’t the government just pay for it?’ people should remember that the government doesn’t have any money,” Campbell told about 250 delegates who gathered to hear the province’s plans. “The only money the government gets is taxes, so we have to tax people for that. If we say ‘go deeper in debt for it,’ I think we have to look at what our debt situation is and it’s pretty heavy right now.”

While drivers have long been calling for an end to the tolls on the Coq — the province’s only toll highway at the moment — Finance Minister Gary Collins says it’s not going to happen. He says the highway is a long way from being paid off.

Other projects that may involve the private sector include an upgraded Kicking Horse Pass and Fraser Canyon corridor. A decision regarding the future of the Coquihalla and Sea to Sky will be made by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Collins says the public can expect to pay more money to use the province’s roads.

“Where possible we’re trying to make sure (new infrastructure projects) are user-pay,” Collins says, noting the province has about $10 billion in potential transportation projects available that would need a boost from private sector investment.

“By using your creativity and imagination, by us setting goals and objectives that we can reach for together, we indeed will be able to provide literally billions of dollars of additional infrastructure development,” concludes Campbell.

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