Conservatives hammer Clark on gas tax hike
BC Conservative leader John Cummins is blasting Premier Christy Clark's support for increasing the much-hated gas tax -- a move analysts say could sway the next provincial election.
The proposed two-cents-per-litre increase is intended to fill a funding gap in TransLink's $1.4-billion Evergreen Line project by generating an estimated $40 million per year, but Cummins says a tax hike is the wrong solution.
"The municipalities and TransLink ought to be able to find that $40 million dollars a year they intend to collect from the gas tax within their own budgets," Cummins told CTV News Tuesday.
The Conservatives have also launched a website and radio campaign attacking both the proposal, introduced last week by the Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation, and the premier for "flip-flopping" her position on the levy.
"What she doesn't get is that the public is upset over the HST," Cummins said. "And then she comes on with this two-per-cent gas tax on top of all the heat on that issue. It just doesn't make sense."
Clark drew criticism last week when she wrote a letter in support of the plan just days after suggesting it didn't fit her families-first agenda. She clarified her position over the weekend, calling occasional tax hikes a "necessary evil."
"If we want to see that Evergreen Line go ahead, this is the proposal the mayors have come up with and we'll have to see how it flies," Clark said.
But Angus Reid pollster Mario Canseco says her support could become a deciding factor in the next election if the proposal splits the centre-right vote between Clark and Cummins' parties.
"If this starts to help the BC Conservatives and they start to climb the charts, it's going to be tough for the government to remain in first place," Canseco said. "I think this is something the NDP is completely conscious about -- the enemy of my enemy is my friend."
Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom defended his work with the mayor's council on Tuesday, arguing the Evergreen Line is important enough to warrant the hike.
"Most reasonable people understand that if we ask for more, whether it be transit, healthcare, education, it's going to cost more money," he said.
If approved, the gas tax hike would be implemented in 2012. The mayors' council proposal also asks for road levies, a graduated vehicle levy and a road pricing transportation improvement fee to help fund the Evergreen Line.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Norma Reid