Drivers who ring up big bills to cross toll bridges like the Golden Ears (above) could get some of it back through a new tax credit BC Conservative leader John Cummins (right) says would be introduced if his party is elected.

Conservatives dangle tax credit on bridge tolls, ferry fares

Rebate like one for transit will help hard-hit motorists: Cummins

The BC Conservatives are promising to rebate a big chunk of what motorists pay out in tolls or fares if they frequently use BC Ferries or the Port Mann or Golden Ears toll bridges.

Conservative leader John Cummins on Monday pledged to create a new provincial income tax credit that pays out up to $408 per motorist each year if they claim the maximum of $1,800 in tolls each year.

Drivers could also qualify for the same amount on ferry travel by claiming their BC Ferries receipts – just for the vehicles portion, not passenger fares.

The 40 per cent tax credit would only apply on the portion of fares or tolls paid in excess of $780 up to the annual maximum.

Cummins estimated it would cost $45 million a year in foregone tax revenue but his party’s budget forecast has been criticized as overly rosy.

“We certainly think it’s doable,” he said after unveiling the election promise in Surrey.

“It’s there to help people who are unduly burdened by the increase in ferry fares and the tolls, which the average guy is finding pretty difficult to manage.”

Cummins said the tax credit, inspired by the federal tax credit on public transit fares, should encourage more people to use Metro Vancouver’s two toll bridges, potentially boosting the tolls raised from them, as well as the financially struggling BC Ferries system.

Asked if Interior residents might object to government money being spent to provide a benefit mainly to Lower Mainland or Vancouver Island drivers, he said no toll bridges exist elsewhere in the province.

It’s not clear how the Tories would prevent someone from collecting ferry receipts from other travellers, particularly out-of-province tourists, and claiming the fares as their own.

“Obviously there’s going to have to be some cautions built into that,” Cummins responded. “I don’t expect that there’d be widespread fraud. It’s not the practice of Canadians to do that.”

Cummins said it’s possible but unlikely that a driver could qualify for the maximum $408 credit on both ferry and toll bridge use, earning a rebate of $816.

Truckers wouldn’t initially be able to claim the toll, but Cummins wants to do so by 2015, although he was unable to provide details.

He noted truckers are diverting to the untolled Pattullo Bridge to avoid paying tolls at the Port Mann.

Another Conservative policy plank aimed at appealing to driver anger would repeal B.C.’s carbon tax. Cummins said that would translate into about $200 per year in relief for the typical motorist.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation B.C. director Jordan Bateman applauded the party for making bridge tolls an election issue.

But he said it’s not clear to him how many drivers would benefit from the credit since they have to spend at least $760 each year in tolls or fares to qualify.

And he questioned the Tories’ reliance on a high economic growth rate to generate more revenue.

“At least they’re putting the high fees on the agenda,” Bateman said. “The diagnosis is correct. I’m just not sure if the medicine will actually cure the problem.”

Transportation Minister Mary Polak called the Conservatives’ tax credit proposal “completely unaffordable in terms of their budget.”

She said it also runs contrary to the government’s position that money for TransLink must be raised within the region, not siphoned from provincial taxes that should help fund priorities elsewhere.

“I have a great deal of curiosity as to how his candidates running in other areas of the province feel about the province providing provincial resources to offset the cost for people who are commuting in Metro Vancouver.”

Just Posted

Mission’s Norm MacLeod is in Peru to train firefighters

It is the 10th time that the assistant fire chief has volunteered to attend and teach these sessions

Silverdale students study gym-sized map of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada

The map is one of only five in existence across Canada and is the only one in B.C.

Former Mission educator receives national Indigenous role model award

Kimberly Sommer, now in Abbotsford, went to Edmonton last week to receive the Indspire role model award

Friends describe murder victim as ‘most caring guy we knew’

Jagvir Malhi of Abbotsford was not involved in gangs or criminal activity, they say

Ten-year sentence for man convicted of belt-strangling death in Abbotsford

Shayne McGenn guilty of manslaughter in 2016 death of David Delaney, 63

Trudeau offers to help Pacific islands face climate change impact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the leaders from the Pacific island nations on Saturday during the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea

Canadian military’s template for perfect recruits outdated: Vance

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff says that the military has to change because the very nature of warfare is changing, particularly when it comes to cyber-warfare

‘Toxic’ chosen as the Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries

Other top contenders for 2018 include ‘gaslighting’ and ‘techlash’

RCMP bust illegal B.C. cannabis lab

Marijuana may be legal but altering it using chemicals violates the Cannabis Act

1 woman dead, man in hospital after ‘suspicious’ crash: police

Homicide investigators and Burnaby RCMP are investigating the fatal collision

Canada defeats Germany 29-10 in repechage, moves step closer to Rugby World Cup

Hong Kong needs a bonus-point win over Canada — scoring four or more tries — while denying the Canadians a bonus point

Avalanche Canada in desperate need of funding

The organization provides avalanche forecasting for an area larger than the United Kingdom

5 B.C. cities break temperature records

Parts of B.C. remain warm, at 10 C, while others feeling chilly

B.C. teacher’s Amazing Race takes students on Canada-wide adventure

Agassiz high school students say they had the experience of a life time

Most Read