PM ignores bridge tolls
From a public standpoint, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau departed P.E.I. last Thursday with a successful visit under his belt. He glad-handed with Islanders and visitors, posed for innumerable selfies and kissed babies. He left without making any commitments. The trip didn’t cost him a dime.
The PM arrived against the backdrop of the Birthplace of Confederation preparing to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. There were tall ships enroute, a Canadian vessel was already in port, thousands of tourists and Islanders alike were gathering for tours, concerts, fireworks and countless other holiday events.
Threatening weather all faded away under the PM’s sunny gaze. The whirlwind tour kept everyone jumping. The plan was to pose with every iPhone in sight, avoid questions until the end of the day, flash that infectious smile and let sunny ways carry the day. It was only after he left that we realized he picked our pockets.
What we didn’t get was a positive response about the high cost of the Confederation Bridge toll. The issue has been raised relentlessly by P.E.I. Senator Percy Downe, who has argued for two years that Islanders are getting unfair treatment.
The PM has acknowledged the bridge is expensive and committed to sharing concerns about the tolls with Island MPs. There is no evidence that such a discussion took place.
The Liberals made a campaign pledge during the 2015 federal election to keep tolls off the new Champlain Bridge in Montreal. The original bridge had tolls, which were later lifted. The cost of the new bridge is estimated at between $4 billion and $5 billion.
Meanwhile it costs $46.50 to leave this province via the $1-billion Confederation Bridge. High tolls have been in place since the bridge opened 20 years ago.
There should be fairness in applying tolls. It’s a matter of equal treatment for Islanders and Quebecers. The PM remained non-committal despite being well aware of the issues, the unfairness and the double standard.
At a town hall last January, the PM was asked about the bridge toll and promised to “look at what can be done to make sure people are able to travel freely, travel efficiently and openly across this country at modest costs.”
Paying a $46.50 toll is a heavy financial burden for most people, but Montrealers can commute to work over a bridge costing five times more — for free.
Premier Wade MacLauchlan raised the toll issue with the PM last Thursday but nothing seems to push Mr. Trudeau into action. It’s unacceptable for the PM to say he is aware of our concerns and then ignores them.
Mr. Trudeau defended his decision to do nothing because it would “pit regions against regions.” By applying different standards, that’s exactly what’s he done. High tolls are not in the best interests of this province.
When he left P.E.I. later Thursday, Mr. Trudeau didn’t have to dig into his pocket for $46.50 to cross the bridge. He boarded a plane and flew to New Brunswick for free.