B.C., Canadian government on 'deadbeat' Port Mann toll list
Jon Woodward, CTV Vancouver
Published Tuesday, September 4, 2018 7:02PM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 5, 2018 7:34AM PDT
The B.C. government waited months to pay a Port Mann Bridge toll bill worth tens of thousands of dollars, and the federal government has yet to pay even more, a CTV News investigation has found.
At just under $60,000, the Government of Canada owes the second highest amount, more than a year after tolls were taken off the bridge.
And in an ironic twist, the only account with a higher bill is from a company run by a man who says he’s in an active tax revolt.
“This sets a really poor example,” said the federal NDP’s finance critic, Peter Julian. “We expect Canadians to pay the taxes they owe. We don’t expect the federal government to be a deadbeat government.”
CTV News requested a list of biggest outstanding toll debts in April, several months after the B.C. government had cancelled tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges in September and told drivers to pay up.
TransLink responded back in July with its list, which included businesses and charities. But the Transportation Investment Corporation, which manages the bridge on behalf of the provincial government, refused to provide the list, with one official saying he didn’t like “naming and shaming” customers.
Those customers included the provincial government, the list shows. It was finally made public after CTV News appealed to B.C.’s information and privacy commissioner. Last week, TI Corp relented and revealed the whole list. Scroll down or click here to view the list.
It includes several bankrupt or defunct trucking companies, a car rental company law enforcement alleged in court was renting to gangsters, and JMP Trucking, whose president Juan Lledo said he’s had enough of expensive tolls that he said amounted to an “unfair tax.”
“I pay my personal tolls, but it’s my company that is revolting,” Lledo said, explaining a list of grievances that included not twinning the old Port Mann Bridge, the “ice bombs” that have dropped from its cables in the winter, and the high cost of one of his trucks to cross.
He said his trucks burned in a fire in Burnaby on Vantage Way in January 2017, which is now the subject of a lawsuit by ICBC against the City of Burnaby, which alleges firefighters could have stopped the blaze earlier.
ICBC never paid him for his trucks, he said, and because they are burned, the main tool ICBC has to get him to pay his tolls – refusing insurance to related trucks – is ineffective.
“I have no trucks,” he said, agreeing that this is a “standoff.” He pointed to the federal government’s failure to pay its bills as another reason to avoid paying.
“If they owe money, why would I pay,” he said.
It appears that while there is a single account for the Port Mann Bridge tolls for the federal government, each ministry or agency is responsible for paying its bill. A spokesperson for one ministry said typically the federal government pays its bills when they are due, 30 days after any invoice is received.
But Julian said there are several prominent examples of the federal government paying its bills late, pointing to the ongoing problems paying civil servants with its Phoenix payment system.
“It doesn’t look good at all. The federal government should be paying its bills,” he said.
In B.C. a spokesperson said that a fleet management company is responsible for paying its tolls and keeping the accounts up to date. The fleet also is made up of several different ministries and agencies.
“The fleet management company required extra time to cross-reference trips and licence plates to make sure the payments were attributed to the appropriate ministry or agency,” a statement read.
But B.C. Liberal MLA Jas Johal told CTV News the timing of the FOI request in April, and the payment in May, is suspicious.
“The government had to be shamed by CTV News to pay its bills,” he said. “That’s appalling.”
“I understand some private sector companies have gone under. But when your own provincial government is on the same list as a bunch of deadbeats, you’ve got to shake your head a little,” he said.
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