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LETTER: Still waiting on PM action to eliminate Confederation Bridge tolls

['Confederation Bridge. Photo special to The Guardian/Strait Crossing Bridge Ltd.']
['Confederation Bridge. Photo special to The Guardian/Strait Crossing Bridge Ltd.']

The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that the decision to eliminate the tolls on the federally owned Champlain Bridge in Montreal will cost the Government of Canada $4.3 billion over 30 years. On May 29th, the Auditor General of Canada reported that it would cost at least $3 billion. The average of these estimates yields a yearly cost to the Canadian government of $121.7 million just for the tolls.

Unlike Confederation Bridge, the government is also paying all maintenance costs for the Champlain Bridge at a cost of $25.1 million per year, bringing the total annual cost of the Champlain Bridge, tolls and maintenance, at $146.8 million.

Why is the federal government prepared to spend over $146 million to remove the toll on the Champlain Bridge and cover the maintenance costs, but refuses to spend much less to remove the $47 toll on Confederation Bridge (also federally owned)? Indeed, including the federal subsidy to the Wood Island-Caribou Ferry and the subsidy to the bridge operator, plus not charging tolls, would still be less money than the yearly cost of the subsidy to the Champlain Bridge.

Prime Minister Trudeau at a town hall on Jan. 13, 2017 committed to “look at what can be done to make sure that people are able to travel freely, travel efficiently, and openly across this country at modest costs.”

Prince Edward Islanders are still waiting for the Prime Minister to deliver those “modest costs”. Hopefully the Auditor General’s Report will spur him to take immediate action.

Percy Downe

Senator, Prince Edward Island

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