PEI

P.E.I. MP Wayne Easter 'open to' Confederation Bridge toll tax break

P.E.I. MP Wayne Easter says a tax credit of 15 per cent for P.E.I. residents who regularly pay tolls on the Confederation Bridge has the most merit of the ideas assessed in a report from the federal budget watchdog.

Tax credit would cost the treasury about $2.5 million a year

Island MPs say it's good to have debate and discussion about the Confederation Bridge tolls. (Gail Harding/CBC)

P.E.I. MP Wayne Easter says a tax credit of 15 per cent for local residents who regularly pay tolls to use the Confederation Bridge has the most merit of the ideas assessed in a report from the parliamentary budget officer.

The report examined a non-refundable income tax credit and a contract extension with the private bridge operator, Strait Crossing Development Inc.

The tax credit would cost the treasury about $2.5 million a year. Easter said that would amount to about $6.90 per trip.

I really don't think it's a good idea for the political process to get into changing those contracts.- Wayne Easter, MP

With a contract extension the report estimated tolls could be reduced by about 46 per cent and still provide enough money to the bridge's private operator to cover maintenance costs through to 2097 when the Confederation Bridge turns 100.

Easter said he would be "open to" any discussion which would benefit Island residents.

Regarding the tax break he said, "I think that would have more merit than anything else, yes."

Wayne Easter says he is open to any discussions about how to reduce tolls. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

But Easter said he couldn't support the idea of reopening the contract with the bridge company. "We're 20 years into a contract that we were very glad to have ... so every time there's a political whim I really don't think it's a good idea for the political process to get into changing those contracts."

Morrissey favours reopening contract

Unlike Easter, Egmont MP Bobby Morrissey said he would push for the contract to be reopened. "Well that one I always liked when it was first suggested and nobody has given a good argument yet of why it cannot be done." 

Morrissey didn't comment on the idea of a tax rebate specifically designed for the Confederation Bridge. However he said he would like to see Islanders be able to access a public transit tax credit that applies to people using public transit and car ferries.

"It would be a form of relief for those Islanders that are using the system and have to use it," he said. He said he would support the public transit tax credit and the contract change in talks with his government. 

Impact on ferries

Morrissey and Easter along with Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay, also said the impact on the ferries should be kept in mind because it's a significant economic factor in eastern P.E.I. 

Easter said there's no question, everybody would like lower costs. "And if it's possible to find them then let's find them in a way that doesn't create further inequities between the car ferry service in the eastern end of the Island and the bridge."

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