Barbara Yaffe complains about high gas prices and the carbon tax in today’s Vancouver Sun.
I’m compelled to respond to some of her statements:
It’s unfortunate that Vancouver folks are forced to pay the highest gasoline prices in Canada when they already suffer with the highest housing costs.
People aren’t just exasperated by this situation; many eventually will decide to live elsewhere because they won’t be able to afford what are – for many – essentials.
High housing costs and high gas prices don’t go hand-in-hand. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
recognizes “the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing
and medical care and necessary social services…” (emphasis added). Owning and driving a private vehicle is not a right and isn’t essential for most Vancouverites. We are fortunate to live in a city with many walkable neighbourhoods, a good and improving cycling network, an extensive public transit system and an abundance of car-sharing options. Car ownership is a choice not unlike whether or not you choose to subscribe to cable TV or (to be even bolder) buy a yacht.
Going car-free or car-light in Vancouver isn’t a hardship and it saves money. The Canadian Automobile Association puts the annual cost
of owning and operating a vehicle at $8001.85 (for an average four-door sedan) or $8944.20 (for an average four-door hatchback hybrid). Vans and other vehicles cost even more. Christopher Porter recently outlined on his Canadian Veggie blog how living car-free in Vancouver saves him $7000 per year
. Some people, like CBC’s Stephen Quinn, suggest that we live in a “car world”
where we can’t possibly get children to school or pick up groceries without a car, but families like Vancouver’s Bruntletts
demonstrate that all of these tasks can be accomplished–very successfully and stylishly–without a private automobile.
In the near future the choice to be car-free or car-light may even lower housing prices since the City of Vancouver proposes in the Transportation 2040 Draft Directions
to separate parking and housing costs, which could reduce the price of a home by $40,000 to $50,000 if buyers opt out of having a parking space.
It should be noted, Torontonians pay more for public transit – a standard single-fare purchase costs $3, compared with $2.50 in Vancouver.
I presume from this statement and her observation that Metro Vancouver drivers pay a transit tax of 17 cents per litre that Yaffe thinks drivers shouldn’t have to cover costs for transit users. She forgets, perhaps, that many Vancouverites who don’t drive or who drive very minimally pay property taxes (directly and indirectly) that support roads, bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure used disproportionately by private vehicles. If Yaffe wants transit fares to increase, I hope she also supports road pricing.
One of Vancouver’s big drawing cards traditionally has been its relatively good weather. But with predictions that climate change will yield a colder, wetter Pacific Northwest – and that’s certainly been borne out last summer and this – that ace in the hole may not last.
Yaffe acknowledges climate change but fails to connect the dots to reveal the relationship between our transportation choices and the environment.
Politicians are going to have to work harder to make the city more competitive, and one way of doing that is to suspend the carbon tax – at least until such time as it’s adopted by some other provinces.
Sustainable Prosperity, a think-tank based at the University of Ottawa, recently issued its report, British Columbia’s Carbon Tax Shift: The First Four Years
, which notes: “BC’s GDP growth has outpaced the rest of Canada’s (by a small amount) since the carbon tax came into effect–suggesting that it has not adversely affected the province’s economy, as some had predicted.” Overviews of the Sustainable Prosperity Report are available on The Tyee’s The Hook
blog and in the Financial Post
. Yesterday, the New York Times dramatically declared
BC’s carbon tax the “the best climate policy in the world,” and urged the United States to adopt a similar tax.
It’s also the case that many Vancouver drivers cross the border to buy cheaper gasoline in Blaine, myself included. I put in only half a tank this week in anticipation of crossing the border next weekend.
This response to Vancouver gas prices is baffling. Instead of driving less, Yaffe drives farther to get a deal in the United States. She argues in her opinion piece that the carbon tax is bad for Vancouver businesses but seems to have no problem with choosing cross-border shopping over supporting the local economy. Sustainable transportation, which the carbon tax encourages, is good for local business. The City’s Transportation Fact Sheet on the Economy notes: “Streets and communities become more vibrant when people walk, cycle or take transit. Transit hubs generate activity and foot traffic, which is good for local business and results in a more enriched public realm.” When we drive less, we build community and support businesses in our neighbourhoods (and Canada!).
It’s unfortunate that commenting appears to be closed on Yaffe’s article on the Vancouver Sun website as I imagine it would spark a rather lively debate.