Canada: Confederation Bridge rush tolls are indefensible

Canada’s federal government has declared that the Confederation Bridge toll will remain unchanged through 2023. It is Ottawa’s first admission that the high tolls place an unfair burden on residents of Prince Edward Island.

This announcement, however, needs to address the substantial disparity between how the federal government treats Canadians based on where they live in Canada when it comes to levying tolls on transportation infrastructure.

The Gordie Howe Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, the Champlain Bridge in Montréal, and the Confederation Bridge in Prince Edward Island are just a few of the significant bridges in Canada that the federal government owns. Even though the Champlain Bridge cost three times as much to build as the Confederation Bridge, only two of these bridges carry tolls.
It is egregiously unjust and breeds hatred and division in our nation.

In addition to having an immediate effect on Islanders’ travel, the Confederation Bridge tolls raise the cost of goods imported into and exported from our province, which is bad for businesses and consumers.

Confederation Bridge’s high toll continues to be unfairly maintained by the federal government, and the Champlain Bridge receives a more significant annual subsidy than the Wood Islands Ferry and Confederation Bridge. The last two could have $20 tolls if the federal government gave them the same yearly donations.

A higher infrastructure subsidy for Prince Edward Island can be funded just as quickly as a toll-free Champlain Bridge.

For instance, the federal government is in charge of the $180 billion, 12-year Investing in Canada Plan, which was launched in 2016 with the goal of funding “infrastructure that benefits Canadians.” Surely part of that money might go into improving the existing infrastructure, lowering the cost of life for Islanders while also enhancing the competitiveness of our exports and the worth of our imports.

The history of user-pay tolling on federal transportation infrastructure in Canada is unmistakable: users of the infrastructure paid for it by paying tolls, notably on the first Champlain Bridge. The people of Prince Edward Island were aware of this and consented to tolls as a requirement for the building of the Confederation Bridge, which is a fantastic asset for the province.

However, the government revised the federal user-pay infrastructure policy and eliminated the tolls on the Champlain Bridge in 2015 as part of an electoral promise. This resulted in Islanders being forced to pay ridiculous tolls for our bridge, which are currently $50.25 per vehicle. This is a significant expense in a province with among the highest inflation rates and lowest incomes in the nation.

Now, the federal government should fix the issue it brought about by altering the nation’s long-standing user-pay infrastructure policy. It should investigate solutions to fix this expensive error in collaboration with the government of Prince Edward Island.

Islanders must band together and continue to pressure the Canadian government if we are ever going to find a solution to this issue. The unfairness of the federal government’s choice to maintain tolls on the Confederation Bridge cannot be defended.

Tolls should only be frozen for a year as a first step toward a more equitable user-pay system for Canadians.

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