Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

You get the policy you pay for

with 4 comments

I breaking my own rule about linking to a paywalled story. I got it through a tweet – so maybe that is why their alarm bells didn’t ring. It is, in a way, a “no surprise there” story but it confirms why for the last ten years so much has been spent on roads and how little on transit.

The story is headlined “Corporations fill Liberal coffers“. The Sun has put together a database of corporate donors using Elections BC data. The number two donor is The New Car Dealers Association of B.C., giving $822,814.New Car Dealers Association of B.C. president and CEO Blair Qualey said dealerships have long been supporters of parties that have a free-enterprise approach.

“They are entrepreneurs at heart and like small government, few regulation and low taxes,” said Qualey of the association’s 350 auto dealers.

“They like to support democracy and make contributions locally to candidates in all the parties,” he added.

He noted that auto dealers have also made contributions to the NDP.

Individual dealers, you note, NOT their Association.

At that all party meeting I blogged the BC Road builders were handing out cards – to a fairly predictable response. Oh no, they replied, it’s about infrastructure. Yeah, right. If we simply made better use of the infrastructure we have we would not be building as many new roads – but there might be quite a lot more work for repairs and maintenance. Knocking down a huge bridge that had many years left in it does not make economic sense to me.

What strikes me is how obvious this all is. It is only because an Association makes a big donation to a party that this is getting noticed. What the Sun database needs to be used to do is to track how much money goes to candidates – and how much of that comes from what looks like individual small donations. Because these are not just new car dealers – they are  the people who have money to donate, from whatever business they happen to be in, and they all say they “like small government, few [sic] regulation and low taxes”. If someone who just happens to be a car dealer donates to the BC Liberal candidate in their riding, so what?  It has always been the case that the candidates with the most money do well. Those with little or no money hardly make a dent. It is only in places where majorities are thin that these candidates make a difference – which is why the two big ones get really worried about “vote splitting”. But that is all about first past the post, and is a distraction

Actually, roads are not at all “small government”. Road construction is a huge business and right now most of it is paid for from taxes. They are not too happy about those that are tolled but the policy – only new roads or bridges, not existing ones – means that toll revenues can only be used to increase road capacity, not reduce it. And the money so collected can only be used on that project, not diverted to other transportation policies. The BC Liberals have been very firmly attached to this policy – even though the last bit – ” and there is a free alternative” is looking a lot less credible on the issue of Fraser crossings.

Similarly, the people who fuel the cars favour less regulation and so on. But also rely very heavily indeed on subsidies. And in BC we seem to be only too willing to allow new fossil fuel extraction to be conducted without even demanding royalty payments. Alberta, of course, demands far less for its oil than, say, Norway. Encana, you note, is number three on the list.

De-regulation has been delivered, under the guise of making government more efficient. So processes like environmental assessments have become pretty much a foregone conclusion. And anyway, there is no-one left in the enforcement branches to see that there is compliance with any conditions that might have been imposed.  This doesn’t just apply to BC, of course, but Canada as a whole. Perhaps what is surprising is that all that this has created is growing public disquiet and unrest – and a few spectacular environmental disasters. Mostly, so far, elsewhere.

Perhaps what this article illustrates best is how far Christy Clark has fallen in the eyes of the very organizations that normally cheer for her. The mainstream media in general and whoever is pulling the strings at the Sun these days.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 23, 2013 at 10:25 am

4 Responses

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  1. RE: Knocking down a huge bridge that had many years left in it does not make economic sense to me.

    I worked as a SuperSave pump truck driver during the summer of 2010. SuperSave had the toilet contract for the new Port Mann bridge and site – there was close to a hundred portable toilets on both sides of the river and on the bridge itself. While I was being trained to do the job, I rode with the driver that regularly serviced the toilets on the Surrey side as part of his route. He told me that someone had told him that the reason the old bridge would be torn down is that the footings were being washed away.

    Kiewit – Flatiron Partnership are also doing the demolition of the old bridge and likely are the people to confirm or deny this. If they aren’t willing, Buckland & Taylor might know someone who’ll talk – they engineer bridges worldwide and may have supervised the maintenance of the old bridge.

    Flatiron to Execute $1.9 Billion Contract for New Port Mann Bridge in Vancouver

    Old Port Mann Bridge Demolition

    Project application with contact info for TI Corp.:

    Marc Erickson

    April 23, 2013 at 3:18 pm

  2. There was, of course, a great deal of media attention when the adjacent hydro pylon’s footings were washed away not so long ago, and the wires across the river came down. I have not heard that there was anything wrong with the old bridge – but the design of the new one does not permit it to remain in place. If there had been some pressing problem requiring the bridge to be demolished, I am pretty sure that the PR folks would have latched on to that. They have been at great pains to justify this project and the way it has been carried out. I am not an investigative journalist and have no ambition in that direction.

    Stephen Rees

    April 23, 2013 at 4:39 pm

  3. Hmmm – perhaps it was a confusion with the hydro pylon’s footings then.

    Marc Erickson

    April 23, 2013 at 4:42 pm

  4. When the “old” Port Mann bridge opened in 1964 the Bordeaux suspension bridge was being built (it opened in 1967). The locals don’t think that it is old, compared to the “Pont de Pierre” bridge built in the 1820s…and more especially compared to the Pont Neuf in Paris, opened in 1607. Not to mention medieval bridges like the Pont Valentre in Cahors..'Aquitaine

    The piles of the Pont de Pierre have loosened stones around the footings, due to the strong current of the river that fight against the Atlantic ocean tides (the Ocean is 80 km away downstream) that are felt up do 60 km upstream of Bordeaux.
    The bridge will be closed next year, perhaps only on one side at a time, and the footings strengthened.

    According to old news from Bordeaux the suspension bridge requires much too much maintenance…

    Here is the latest bridge:

    It takes 12 minutes for the bridge to go up or down but, including the time it takes for the boat to go under–longer than on the video–the bridge is closed for at least 1 hour.

    Red frog

    April 23, 2013 at 10:32 pm

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