Jordan Bateman: TransLink border tax idea should be deported

In a year where TransLink apologists seemed to have thrown every possible tax grab—sales tax hikes, vehicle levies, road pricing, carbon tax—at the wall to see if anything would stick, one idea stood above the rest for its sheer ludicrousness. The envelope please…

“The award for the dumbest public policy suggestion of 2013 goes to… (dramatic pause…) the TransLink border tax!”

This toll-the-borders loser was suggested at one of the dozen or so transportation summits/conferences/gabfests funded by your tax dollars this year. While initially pooh-poohed as “a bit tongue in cheek” by attendees such as NDP MLA Selina Robinson, the idea continues to surface in the media and has even been sent south for some number crunching.

Essentially, a toll would be slapped on B.C. drivers just before they crossed the border into the United States, from Point Roberts to Sumas. Toll booths would be set up on 264th Street, 176th Street, Highway 99, Highway 11, and 56th Street. A U.S. organization claims such a $5 round-trip toll could generate $38 million for TransLink.

There is no doubt that lower gas taxes are drawing Canadians south. In May, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation released calculations showing that the untaxed cost of gasoline is virtually identical between Blaine, Washington, and Surrey, B.C. It is the 34 cents per litre gas tax gap that makes Washington state gasoline so attractive—saving drivers roughly $18 per fill-up.

Add in the savings on groceries, milk, cheese, flights, and consumer goods, and it’s no wonder why Whatcom County is seeing its highest number of Canadian visitors since the mid 1990s.

But the solution to the gas tax gap is not to tax Canadians even more; the better plan is to address Canadian issues like the federal government charging GST on gas purchases—a tax-on-tax.

The TransLink border tax is rubbish, but keeps getting media attention. Main proponent Eric Doherty, who holds an M.A. in planning and is a former director of both the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association and Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, is over the top in his push for this silly plan: "There's a perception that whatever we do needs to be fair,” he said. “And it's not fair that people are evading paying their fair share of taxes."

Hear that, Canadians? Every time you cross the border, according to Doherty, you are breaking the law by “evading” taxes. You’re just like Leona Helmsley, Martha Stewart, Al Capone, Heidi Fleiss, Pete Rose, O.J. Simpson, and other famous tax evaders.

Such a statement is utter nonsense, of course. There is nothing illegal about crossing a border. Undoubtedly Doherty must also think those who buy local craft beer are also evil “tax evaders” as they pay less taxes than if they had purchased one of the big name brands. 

You can bet proponents won’t stop at tolling the U.S. border. In their minds, Lower Mainlanders who go east for cheaper gas must also be “tax evaders.

After all, from 2007 to 2010, Abbotsford’s population grew 5.3 percent, while diesel and gasoline sales grew 16.8 percent. Perhaps border tax proponents should also consider taxing every road in and out of the TransLink taxation area.

Roads to and from Mission better get taxed too. From 2007 to 2010, the TransLink tax-free community grew 3.6 percent in population, while fuel sales jumped 14.7 percent.

This year, B.C. taxpayers have endured property tax hikes, B.C. Hydro increases, ICBC rate hikes, MSP premium increases, TransLink tax and fare hikes, CPP and EI premium increases, B.C. Ferries fare hikes, and a myriad of other increases handed down by various government agencies. The sooner TransLink supporters understand that everyday Canadians are stretched thin, the quicker we can move on to figuring out how TransLink can live within its means. 

Comments (12) Add New Comment
Alan Layton
Jordan Bateman probably has the easiest job in the world. All he needs to do is scrape up a few figures and then complain. Easy Peasy. I wonder if he realizes that when people buy from the US then they are not paying taxes here. So as a result the lost income needs to be supplemented from elsewhere, namely increased income tax.

I refuse to shop in the US. Why? Because I'm not poor and I don't want to put Canadian shopkeepers out of business - I'm not that greedy. While I don't cross border shop, pretty well everyone I know does, and none of them are even remotely poor. In addition I'm finding that they are buying lots of extra crap just because it's cheaper, rather than out of need. In fact I find it funny that so many people denounce consumerism here and then they sit in their idling cars at the border like drooling idiots, spewing pollutants, just so they can save a few bucks on whatever useless electronic device they are lusting after.

So I'm all for the border tax.
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DavidH
The Libertarian/Tea Party organization that dishonestly calls itself a "Taxpayers Federation" strikes again ... and again and again and again and again and again.

The "Rob Fordian" message is always the same, and Bateman's version is equally dishonest and thoughtless. Libertarian/Tea Party types appeal to those who actually think it's possible to cut or contain taxation while improving or increasing services. These are stupid people.

Why the "Taxpayers Federation" is given media support is beyond belief. The CTF represents a tiny, tiny, minuscule fraction of real taxpayers and Jordan Bateman doesn't know what he's talking about, on any subject.

Pathetic, Georgia Straight.
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Tom
Alan Layton, you must be related to the dearly departed king of leftieism Jack Layton. What you say is true drool, spewing almost as much crap out of your mouth as come's out of my idling exhaust pipe. You don't want to go across the line, great they don't want you. To some people, saving 18 bucks is the difference between making it and not. So as we are very happy for you and your great high paying job, I am sure you will be living off the backs of the taxpayer soon.
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Alan Layton
Tom - I don't have a high paying job, but I'm not poor either. Poor people usually can't afford to own and run a car, so I don't buy the argument that it's a matter of life and death for people who cross border shop. Most are doing it so they can save some money, only to spend it on other crap.
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Frank Salome
The only way to keep competition and prices down in Canada is by Cross Border shopping. Not allowing CBS will only allow prices to sky rocket in Canada due to corporate greed. I'm for Cross border shopping 110%
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Kiskatinawkid
Bateman is sooooooooo boring! And totally predictable. Get a real job. A border tax is long overdue. And by the way, I do have a job and I do pay taxes.
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400 ppm
Tom and Frank, the next time you cross the border you're free to apply for citizenship since living here is such a burden.
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nxdark
Tax the border! Keep Canadian money in Canada.
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Whatever
Actually, regardless what Bateman says, a border toll - on Canadians only - is probably one if the smartest ideas floated. It targets those who are avoiding tax here, and replaces that lost revenue in a way everyone can live with.
I am not talking about charging people to come here, as the US was contemplating. Those who cross-border shop are saving money; a toll simply reduces those savings. Bridge and road tolls punish those who have no choice but to use them. They are money gone for nothing. Border tolls are something for something, a fair trade.
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Lee L
Let's see.

7 tires ordered online and delivered FREE to Blaine = $149 per tire, install in Vancouver extra.
7 tires bought at local 'shop' ( read Big O tire franchise ) in Vancouver = $321 per tire, install in Vancouver extra, TAXES extra.

Leaving the taxes out of the equation, I saved 7 x (321-149) = $1204 buying in the USA. Add the taxes in it is even more, but tax avoidance is NOT the reason people shop in the USA. This leaves me with 1204 more dollars to spend at some other store in Vancouver should I choose to do so, instead of at an overpriced franchise chain in town. Saving an extra 35 bucks on a fillup while avoiding the TRANSLINK and carbon tax is just a joyful bonus, not the real reason for having an address in Blaine.

GET THE PRICES right and I'll happily shop at home AND pay the tax.
KEEP gouging the Canadian consumer and I will not. It is, after all, only an extra 30 km from Blaine to any tire store in Vancouver. It doesnt cost THAT much to transport tires.

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Put up or stop complaining
The next major project undertaken by Translink had better be in Surrey, or the gas tax will bleed even more!
A big part of the lost tax revenue is due to the fact that South of Fraser is shorted on service, while being expected to pay the lion's share of the cost to provide service elsewhere. It has been twenty years since the few miles of Skytrain track was laid in Surrey. In that time, those South of Fraser have continued to contribute to a system that does not adequately serve them. At least some of those crossing the border for cheaper gas do so in protest of bridge tolls and gas taxes. Those who drive farthest pay the most, but this is only fair if everyone has adequate alternatives, which are missing South of Fraser. We drive the furthest because we have no choice. Fix this inequality, and at least some people will stop buying their gas elsewhere. As long as those South of Fraser are paying to provide service to everyone but themselves, this situation will continue.
A border tax will not be a disincentive as long as the savings are greater than the toll. For that reason, I don't have much of a problem with it. You cannot vilify drivers when they have no choice but to drive. You cannot fault people who are simply trying to make ends meet under unfair circumstances. Like it or not, Surrey is no longer a agricultural suburb. As a city, it deserves a fair share of public transportation services. After all, those who live there have contributed to service everywhere else.
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Fred
I was quite taken aback when I read this new(?) approach to get deeper into my wallet. Did anyone else see the irony in that the analysis for Translink resulting in this recommendation was performed by a company across the border. Why can translink cross border shop but not me. Did they get a better price? No taxing border crossers because Translink can't handle their current funding.
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