Jan 8, 2010

The business elite’s parking tax backlash


The media is reporting a “backlash” against the new parking tax in Vancouver.  The Vancouver Sun reports it is a “slickly organized” backlash being run by Vancouver’s business elite.  This is apparently a 30 member business coalition including the Board of Trade.

This is not the first time Vancouver’s business elite has gotten organized around the issue of transit.  In 2004 the then elected TransLink Board of directors voted down the proposed Canada Line public private partnership because of the cost of the project.  Business organized a 34 member coalition, including the Board of Trade, to put pressure on TransLink to reconsider and to build the line as a P3.

The project was rescued and the Canada Line was built.  Now, the BC government’s Comptroller General says the cost of operating the Canada Line:

is expected to exceed the additional system revenue it generates until 2025, with costs exceeding incremental revenues by $14 million to $21 million for most years until then.

This ongoing deficit is one of the reasons for TansLink’s financial problems and one of the reasons why TransLink is raising both transit fares and property taxes and also imposing the parking tax. 

The business coalition’s complains that too much of the cost of paying for that financial problem is being loaded onto parking taxes and not enough onto property taxes and transit fares.  Property taxpayers are already feeling pressured by tax increases, especially in Vancouver where Council is shifting part of the burden of business property taxes onto homeowners.

Transit fares in Vancouver are also already among Canada’s highest and they are going up.  How does that compare with parking fees?  Colliers International publishes an annual parking rate survey.  In June 2009 they found the daily median rate for parking in Vancouver was $17.00.  That’s more than they pay in Saskatoon and Edmonton, but less than Calgary ($22.00), Toronto ($22.50) and Winnipeg ($18.00).  The new tax pushes parking costs up to a point that is not out of line for a major Canadian city.

The real problem is that property taxes, transit fares and parking taxes don’t produce enough revenue for the transit system we have, let alone the transit system we need that would include the Evergreen Line.  Increasing ridership and decreasing carbon from cars will require a greater financial involvement by the provincial government than they are willing to make.

And for the business elite, perhaps the lesson they might learn is that you should be careful what you demand because someone might ask you to pay for it.

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