British Columbia

Mayors eye vehicle levy, fuel tax to pay for transit

Metro Vancouver drivers could soon be paying for a new regional carbon tax or vehicle levies based on the size of their car to pay for transit expansion.

Metro Vancouver drivers could soon be paying for a new regional carbon tax or vehicle levies based on their size of their vehicle to pay for transit expansion — if a request by the districts mayors is approved.

Metro Vancouver mayors are requesting the provincial government quickly approve the new fees in order to avoid a short-term property tax increase.

The proposed vehicle levy would be based on the engine size and emissions ratings for vehicles insured by ICBC within the TransLink service area.

North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton, who chairs the mayors' council for regional transportation, says the measures are the only way to pay for the costs in the short term without raising property taxes.

"Both of those would require fairly simple legislation, and one of the challenges we have is that there is only eight  weeks before this session of the legislature is finished, and if there is going to be any legislation introduced, it needs to allow any additional source of funding to be implemented within the next 12 months," he said.        

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom said he needed time to review the request, adding it was too early to say if the issue would be dealt with in the current session of the legislature.

Other options under consideration by the mayors' council include road tolling, giving part of the provincial carbon tax to TransLink.

Last April, the council introduced a two-cent-per-litre fuel tax to try help cover expansions to TransLink, including the new Evergreen rapid transit line to the Tri-Cities area.

At that time drivers in Metro Vancouver were already paying a motor fuel tax of 23.5 cents per litre on top of the B.C. carbon tax, which rose to 5.56 cents per litre in July 2011 and will reach 6.67 cents a litre in July 2012.

The mayors are also asking Lekstrom to authorize a review of TransLink by the provincial auditor general or the new local government auditor general.