PM ig­nores bridge tolls

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.