The carbon tax introduced in the BC Liberal’s 2008 budget, while commendable in theory, will do little to get people out of their cars. Everyone is concerned about the environment, we all want to do better, but a tax isn’t the way to environmental utopia. Greater Vancouverites already pay, on average, 11 cents more per litre of gas then any other province, including a 12-cent per litre Translink tax. Our highways are still a congested nightmare, and no one in their right mind travels at 5:00 p.m., unless they have to.
It isn’t just as simple as people not wanting to leave their cars at home. The public transit system in the Lower Mainland and surrounding areas is so flawed, that oftentimes transit just isn’t an option, period. Other times it’s actually more expensive to get on the bus then to take your car. In BC, where transit fares are the highest in the country, just 7.5% of the working population takes transit to work, while in Ontario, 12% jump on the buses or subways everyday.
The BC government and our Translink board have forgotten that taking the bus is supposed to be inexpensive. As it stands today, a family of four, traveling from Surrey to the Science Center, during regular fare hours, would spend $34 on round trip transit, while the mini-van and parking would round out to approximately $20. Since 2002, transportation costs have risen 16.2%, shelter costs have risen 10%, food costs have risen 10%, but hourly wages have risen only 9.3%. Another tax is just too much pressure on B.C. families.
Vancouver housing prices have pushed families out to the suburbs, out to the Fraser Valley, where they’re without transit options, and are forced to commute by car. Any more strain on their budgets could just push them out of the province. We have to recognize that while our population continues to rise, the rate at which it’s rising is decreasing. Of the 850,000 people who moved between provinces in 2006, 26% went to Alberta, 21% went to Ontario and only 19.3% moved to BC.
And it’s families that we’re losing. There are 10,000 empty spaces in Vancouver schools while our population is aging. Senior Citizens make up 14% of our citizenship, while 15% are children. Comparatively, Alberta has 10% seniors and 18% children.
But it’s families that we need. Parents spend small fortunes on clothes, shoes, cd’s, entertainment and dental bills, while their offspring keep our teachers employed. It’s the children who grow into the next generation of employers, employees and taxpayers. Without them, British Columbia’s future grows dim and dull.
If the BC Liberals are truly interested in lowering greenhouse gases, and this isn’t another tax grab to help pay for the Olympics, then are much more effective means of doing it. We can offer rebates on energy efficient appliances and cars, and tax incentives for builders who install solar panels. What we can’t do is continue to keep our heads in the sand, believing that there’s no limit to what people will pay to live in British Columbia.