February 27, 2003

CAA opposes proposed highway tolls

Ottawa, Ontario – In response to the federal government’s ‘Straight Ahead’ plan for Canada’s transportation system issued on Tuesday, the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) said it is disappointed the proposal does not contain any concrete actions or adequate funding for Canada’s increasingly deficient road infrastructure. The CAA also said it is opposed to new road tolls and user fees.

“As the most critical component of Canada’s transportation network and a driving force of the Canadian economy, it is remarkable that the federal government has, once again, neglected the need for sustained, strategic investment in road and highway infrastructure,” stated CAA President, David Flewelling.

The federal proposal suggests the possibility of “earning user revenue for infrastructure investment, including the tolls now charged for some highways and bridges.” Such a measure is clearly opposed by Canadians, said Flewelling. Flewelling stated that the government’s idea of implementing user pricing that reflects the so-called “full costs” of transportation activity is clearly flawed.

“It shows little recognition that motorists are already paying more than their fair share for transportation infrastructure in fuel taxes and other motorist-generated revenues without any substantial return on their investment. Full cost road pricing might include charges to motorists on each trip for the cost of maintaining the road network, as well as for the costs of congestion, environmental damage, collision risks that their road use imposes on others, and enforcement costs,” said Flewelling. “Attention to road transportation funding should not mean that we must increase fees and taxes. Most importantly, the federal government must ensure that existing taxes are spent as efficiently and effectively as possible. Only then might it be appropriate to ask for additional revenue.”

The CAA has long been calling on the federal government to boost funding for the national road and highway network, including the Trans-Canada Highway, which carries the vast majority of intercity, inter-provincial and international vehicle travel in Canada. Canada’s level of capital and maintenance investment in roads and highways is widely-recognized, and confirmed by the federal government’s own research, as being consistently inadequate and is among the lowest of OECD member countries. It is also one of the few countries without a national policy or program in support of national road and highway infrastructure.

“It is a position that must clearly change, especially at a time when our neighbours to the south are moving in the opposite direction in terms of infrastructure spending,” stressed Flewelling.

In the weeks and months ahead, the CAA will continue to advocate for specific, longer-term, strategic investment in, and the maintenance and upgrading of, Canada’s road infrastructure and National Highway System, he said.

The CAA is a federation of 11 automobile clubs with over four million members across Canada.

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