May 23, 2014

How to spend $14 billion on roads and bridges: The Strategies

The transit proposals currently being developed by the Mayor’s Council have to be submitted to Transportation Minister Stone in June 2014, after which (assuming agreement by region and province) there will be a vote, after intense public debate, no later than June 15, 2015. 

But most major transportation infrastructure just gets announced as a done deal – as was the Port Mann Bridge and, most recently, the Massey Bridge.  You didn’t, and won’t, be voting on them.

How does that happen?  From where comes these initiatives to spend billions without any broad-based public invovlement, particularly when they have a profound effect on the shape of the region and its land-use strategies?

Well, mainly they come from the goods-movement strategies, created by those insiders, both public and private, whose mandate is “to increase the volume of cargo moving through British Columbia’s ports.”  With that comes jobs, taxes and economic growth. 

But it’s rare to find everything laid out in one place.  So I asked the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to sum up the expenditures (and the strategies) that have led to so much money being spent on projects with so little public awareness.  Here’s an edited version of what I received:


In 2005, the BC Ports Strategy was published, followed in 2006 with the Pacific Gateway Strategy Action Plan.

These two documents identified an opportunity to increase the volume of cargo moving through British Columbia’s ports and the general infrastructure improvements which were needed to support increased traffic … in one integrated, multi-modal, public-private strategy.

The projects that were identified to support the 2006 Action Plan:

  •  Bulk and container terminal capacity – $2.5 billion
  •  Major roads and railways – $14 billion
  •  Access to resources in rural British Columbia – $240 million
  •      Air capacity – $3.4 billion
  •  Canada Line — $2 billion
  •      Bulk and container terminal capacity – $2.5 billion

The $22 billion in funding committed for transportation infrastructure projects is apportioned as follows:

  • Province $5.4 billion
  • Canada 1.7 billion
  • Private 14.1 billion
  • Municipalities 0.2 billion
  • TransLink 0.7 billion


Major roads and railways – $14 billion

A transcontinental network of roads and railways connects British Columbia ports to natural resources and customers as far away as New Orleans. …

British Columbia road improvements include projects such as the South Fraser Perimeter Road and the Port Mann bridge.  (It also includes the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor– a $307 million project with 12 funding partners …

Other road projects include:

  • Golden Ears Bridge
  • Coast Meridian Overpass
  • Pitt River Bridge & Mary Hill Interchange
  • Highway 1 – Kamloops to Alberta Phase 1
  • Kicking Horse Pass (Phases 1, 2 & 3).

Also included in this group was the Border Infrastructure program, jointly funded by the Province and Canada at $284 million. A truck fast lane and NEXUS system, along with road widening for truck passing lanes, were among the list of projects …


In April of 2012, the Premier, as part of the BC Jobs Plan, released the Pacific Gateway Transportation Strategy 2012-2020. …. The Province has committed about $1 billion to road improvements–$700 million to upgrade trade corridors over the next five years.

A copy of the Pacific Gateway Transportation Strategy 2012-2020 can be found here.


Of course, none of this explains how the Massey Bridge became the must-do (no vote required) transportation priority for this region.  Nor do they tell us what projects are under consideration for the next ten years that will shape our future.  But if they can be justified by goods movement, chances are they won’t be evaluated by the criteria that shapes our regional and local plans.

Posted in


If you love this region and have a view to its future please subscribe, donate, or become a Patron.

Share on


  1. Excellent summary.

    One cannot reasonably expect the public to vote on this in a referendum. One can debate, of course, the merits of a referendum on public transit as the proposal calls for more debt and higher taxation on multiple levels. Since the Liberals ran on a ” not more debt” and ” not more taxes ” strategy it is fair that they ask voters to approve additional debt and higher taxes/levies/user fees for more transit, especially in light of a freely spending more left-leaning body of municipalities not as center-right as the provincial Liberals !

    Clearly, the Lower Mainland needs more transportation investment, be it roads, tunnels, bridges or public transit !

    1. “One cannot reasonably expect the public to vote on this in a referendum”

      “it is fair that they ask voters to approve additional debt and higher taxes/levies/user fees for more transit”

      Why one but not the other?

      1. Because people have no clue about trucks and harbours and tunnels. We elect politicians to make decisions, based on expert input.

        I also agree that a referendum on public transit is silly, really just a ploy to allow the Liberals to say “I told you so” when it fails in round one. Most bus riders are NDP voters I reckon, say 70%+. A referendum has to be seen in light of this very fact.

        The NDP chose to wreck this province in the 1990’s .. and now the Liberals have to catch up with critical industrial infrastructure spending. The NDP voting bus riders have to wait unfortunately.

        1. Thomas Beyer, you have to be kidding me…the ndp wrecked this province in the nineties. Delusional. The lieberals have been destroying this province for the last thirteen years and you still are trying to blame the ndp. What’s the deficit in bc these days, Thomas? Will contracting out the operation of and selling our public assets fix it, you think? wait, I think we already sold all our public assets…hmmn… Maybe some more corporate welfare would help, after all, the corporate tax rate here just isn’t quite low enough is it? How much farther should we bend over to encourage investment with dubious outcomes for the public? I mean the deficit has only doubled (and there is much much more debt they have incurred for us that is not acknowledged in that figure) but maybe we just aren’t bending over far enough, right?

        2. Thomas Beyer: “Because people have no clue about trucks and harbours and tunnels. We elect politicians to make decisions, based on expert input.”

          The majority don’t use transit and so can be inferred to have no clue about it, either. Why are we inviting people who don’t understand the benefits of transit to society as a whole to make decisions about it? What makes transit exempt from expert input and leadership decisions?

  2. yes, we ought to monetize roads, oil, gas or foreign investments more.

    yes, our deficit is too high, i.e. we still spend far too much.

    Which party is reigning in spending yet monetizes public assets in BC ?

    Under the NDP investments dried up, or would have dried up if they had one a year ago. In the 1990’s most provinces grew substantially, except BC. An electoral win by the NDP last May would have ruined it further. Yes, there is much to criticize about the Liberals, too, but at least they keep the unions in check (not nearly far enough btw) and spending down (see teachers’ strike).

    At least we see some investments now into necessary road infrastructure. Yes, we need more public transit, too.

    The anti-anything body in BC is well established and well oiled by the US. New legislation, like it exists in the US, that lobby groups cannot be foreign funded is required here too to shut down all those anti-oil, anti-harbour, anti-pipeline and anti-everything groups as this is wrecking this province . Money does not grow on trees, it is generated by businesses and industries and they need room to expand and hire and pay taxes, and that balance is severely threatened under the NDP (and that is why they were not elected and will likely never be elected again unless they create a more pro-business attitude)

    1. Oh, Thomas to be like you and have so much faith in the private sector to save the day! Sadly, the private sector’s primary interest seems to be more selfish than you imply. The jobs aren’t materializing for British Columbians; why waste our precious resources solely to enrichen private citizens flouting the foreign workers legislation? Why have foreign worker legislation? Why not take a cue from Scandinavian countries who take care of their citizens; they pay a very high rate of taxation but can actually see that money enriching their lives. Something I can’t say the same for here. Why do you have such a problem with people being able to make a decent living? No doubt you’ll be enjoying and using up a government pension but you don’t think others should have a similar standard of living. Why? Not everyone can have their own company or business, right? why do you want to see people being paid a pittance,only to complain when the same people (working poor) require a subsidy just to exist? Surely you realise this is an example of privatizing profit and socializing debt that you also claim is crippling the province, right? How can you possibly think a teachers strike and ongoing labor negotiations is saving the province money? No pay raises for teachers ten years in a decade of escalating cost of living and yet you approve. I wonder how many well paid liberal insiders and executives received unnecessary and excessive pay raises and bonuses during that time. Why doesn’t that piss you off? Look at the mess the fiberals made of hydro, translink, bc ferries, bctc, bc rail, selling the ferries for less than scrap value.. less than scrap(!), the convention center budget, the destruction of healthcare and the obvious effect it has had on our lives… to name just a few. What a joke! As a people we have been swindled and on top of that this government sees fit to spend lots of money on advertising constantly to tell us how great of a job they are doing. I tell you lately I really notice all these organizations who need to jam down our throats how benevolent and amazing they are seem to also have the most contradictory skeletons in their closet. But I digress…

      1. Yes much went wrong here.

        I am essentially a Conservative, almost Libertarian. I have lived in Europe and I detest the socialistic attitude and excessive spending, primarily because I grew up with the Iron Curtain next door and have seen socialism wreck whole generations and nations.

        Sweden has very high tax rates. I understand that that appeals to many, just not to me.

        Only private investments and private citizens and their free enterprise can save nations, augmented by basic social services like basic healthcare or basic schooling. Far too much is handed out for free in Europe or in more and more measures here in Canada ( or US) now, leading to higher and higher taxes and more and more debt.

        The less money we give politicians the better we are all off. Governments ought to set regulations, but not much else.

        We expect far too much from our governments.

        It is up to the individual to make his/her own life decisions. The government needs to take care of the truly handicapped or provide basic healthcare, and basic schooling, say to grade 9. After that it ought to be primarily private as too much free stuff is abused by both citizens and politicians.

        Many immigrants came here with nothing and have done well.

        The entitlement mentality by many is appalling . Yes we need clean water and safe pipelines and schools and healthcare, but the degree of over-regulation and money and time spent on trivial issues is ridicolous.

        Governments in the so called “first” world spend far too much or is involved in far too much. Markets are self regulating. If an employer pays too little, people leave. Almost no one makes minimum wage. Health care ought to be far more privatized in Canada then we would actually had better service. A car service is not free. Why should healthcare be ? Every obese or smoking or sedentary person pays the same and receives benefits for free, penalizing fit, non-smoking diet-conscious walkers or bikers ? How is that fair ? Etc ..

        1. Thomas Beyer: “Only private investments and private citizens and their free enterprise can save nations, augmented by basic social services like basic healthcare or basic schooling.”

          When you see what large corporations in the resource extraction industry do to third-world nations with weak governments you start to realize that unconstrained free enterprise can be a very, very bad thing. And the same thing happened in the finance industry even in the first world countries which should have known better.

          Placing too much faith in free enterprise to “get it right” is just as much a recipe for disaster as supplanting it.

        2. Of course some constraints have to be placed upon unbridled capitalism. But many nations, certainly Europe, but also BC have gone too far. Too many taxes. Too many regulations. Too many (usually overpaid) civil servants. Too much entitlement thinking exploited by usually left-leaning parties like the NDP or the (federal or ON) Liberals: free this and free that. I have a right for this and that.

          That is why I prefer Canada over the US. However, progress never ever comes from committees or governments, only from individuals or private enterprises. Government just distributes the wealth created.

          Think: Apple. Google, EBay, Lululemon, FaceBook,

          Excessive lending policies were first government mandated by Jimmy Carter, namely forcing banks to lend to folks who were poor, and should not have borrowed, essentially affirmative action for banks. It went downhill from there with looser and looser lending policies such a CDOs and credit-default swaps. Certainly George Bush could have created a vast surplus but chose to cut taxes and go to war with Afghanistan and Iraq and pissed away $1T. Clearly not a good example either. Canada survived the recession better, due to more regulated and disciplined lending policies under the PC. BC Liberals are similar to PC, and that is why they got elected and re-elected. Look at the mess in Ontario. Hardly good governance.

          So yes, contrained capitalism is the way to go. Canada gets its mostly right, but still places far too many hurdles from native claims, overtaxation, excessive public demands and foreign funded environmentalists, or shall I say, political organizations with a “green” label protecting big US interest that have nothing to do with the environment.

          Protesting XL pipeline, for example, is actually doing more harm to the environment than good as now oil moves by train, up 900% from a year ago. Hardly green.

          #99 buses are stuck on Broadway spewing diesel in the air. No exactly “sustainable” transportation. Where is the subway or at least, a dedicated lane for buses, or gas powered buses with less air pollution ?

          1. Well, I have no trust in the private sector to take public funds and use them for the betterment of the people, sorry. I think I’ve provided enough examples why, though I certainly could name more. You are overlooking the damning effects of wealth and power. You may on fact be suffering from them. Are you implying charity doesn’t fund research and innovation (though don’t get me started on charity executives..) how can bc have the lowest corporate tax but it is still too much? Why do you have do much more patience for corporate welfare than, say, people trying to feed their children? Or people trying to teach children? The system you are suggesting certainly doesn’t provide equal opportunity or any opportunity for children born into poverty.. I suppose after their grade nine education they can get a job in a workhouse? I believe Ebenezer Scrooge felt the same way. How much wasted potential for innovation there? Uhm, are you trying to blame poor people for the 2008 recession?

  3. Jenables drank the Kool-Aid. Your screed is classic little-red book. Corporations are not the problem. Generalizations that corporations are bad is embarrassingly sophomoric. When high-fashion, expensive private-school, jet-setting, red diaper leaders of the silly left like Naomi Klein say something and the acolytes repeat it ad-nauseum you know it’s time to ignore them.

    Taxing corporations simply takes away money that would otherwise go to increasing wages for workers and improving benefits and working conditions. The idea that corporate taxes are good because this takes money away from rich shareholders is just silly. Corporations should only pay property taxes for use of local infrastructure and services.

    The left wants more government for social services and bureaucracy. The results from the European elections today are are clear indication that the people have had enough. Last week it was India that swung hard to the right, this week it’s Europe. The left is in tatters.

      1. Thomas, I rarely agree with you, but until now I could at least respect the fact that you don’t lower yourself to name calling and ranting about communism.

        1. Communism and socialism have both failed miserably. What is your point ? Governments are the saviour of all ? Corporations are evil ? Innovation ought to be stopped ? No more iPhones or Facebook ? No cars ? Only grey government mandated clothing ?

          By and large corporations lead by individuals create wealth, and governments redistribute it. Of course taxation has to happen to fund basic healthcare, roads, parks, education .. The question is to what degree. I’d say lower is better, and other beg to differ. I get that. Let’s debate degrees of taxation then, or levels of free education, or levels of free healthcare.

          1. Thomas,
            “Communism and socialism have both failed miserably. What is your point ? Governments are the saviour of all ? Corporations are evil ? Innovation ought to be stopped ? No more iPhones or Facebook ? No cars ? Only grey government mandated clothing ?”

            What is your point? I never said any those things, so unless you have an intractable gap in your logic you could try to understand that wanting your company to provide a living for its employees rather than exploit them does not make one a socialist, communist or anti-innovation.

        2. The market sets wages. If you are underpaid, you can leave, or move to different regions with often far higher wages, say N-BC or AB or SK. Most employers pay fair wages, as they have too otherwise people leave. It is a fairly competitive labour market. Hardly anyone makes minimum wage, for example.

        3. To your comment that people can just move elsewhere if they don’t like their wages.. moving costs money, moving and looking for work means lost wages, and moving away from your friends and family to live in a place where you have no support system is much more difficult than you state. You may have to incur additional expense if you move somewhere without reliable or extensive public transit and need to own a car, for example. You may have children whose lives you do not want to upend and you might rely on the help of your nearby family to raise those children while you work. The idea that people can move if they don’t like their wages not covering basic necessities is a weak argument to justify paying wages that people can’t live off of. The market also employs children to work in harsh conditions for next to nothing to increase some faraway stranger’s bottom line. Do you agree with that?

        4. Of course I agree that moving costs money. I also agree that people have choices in their lives, such as to upgrade their skills, take more education, take a year off, switch employers, work harder, work less, work evenings or weekends, etc .. the Canadian market place is full of opportunities, ONE OF THE BEST IN THE WORLD .. perhaps not though where you live. As such, if the jobs that you think you deserve, or the wage scale, is not in your neighborhood, you have to switch neighborhoods. This is how this world works. Canada’s wages are one of the highest in the world, and unemployment is fairly low, so plenty of choices – aplenty !

    1. Well Eric, kindly provide me with some examples where lower or no taxation on corporations resulted in better wages and safer working conditions. Just so I know you have some kind of argument rather than a knee jerk reaction calling me a communist because I believe workers should be able to both house and feed themselves, and that society benefits from people being paid enough to look after themselves and contribute to the tax base and local economy. If anyone has a screed and is making generalizations, it’s you.

  4. Aside from the ‘havens’ like the Bahamas, Cayman and Bermuda, Sweden has one of the lowest corporate tax rates. Switzerland is close behind, as is Singapore. (There are many reputable web sites that show this.) Sweden taxes corporations at lower level than Canada, France, Britain, Germany, USA, etc..

    The only benefit I see to taxing corporations is that there will be deductions permitted, to ascertain just how much they should pay, and these deductions are often purchased in the form of philanthropy.

    By the way. British Columbia has never had the manufacturing base that Ontario and Québec have. It will take time to build a substantial energy industry base here, before the jobs are created.

    Oh, By the way. Jenables incorrectly wrote that the Teachers have not received a pay raise in ten years.
    Eight years ago in 2006 Finance Minister of BC, Carole Taylor offered the British Columbia teachers a contract with a 16% pay increase over five years, plus a $4,000 signing bonus! They signed.

    Oh, by the way. The Liberals sold the ferries on the open world market. People were paid to advertise and market them worldwide. The best offer was accepted. Unfortunately, the ferries that were the dream of that disastrous NDP government could not be sold for more than a pittance. Personally, I wish one had been kept, hoisted and displayed as a sculpture to government mismanagement using taxpayer funds. Politicians designing watercraft!

    1. Sorry Eric, I didn’t see any examples that corporations pay higher wages and create better working conditions when they don’t have to pay corporate tax in your reply. Since you are citing Sweden, why not educate us about their personal tax rate? Clearly if government is not going to lose the amount of revenue corporate tax generates it will recoup those losses elsewhere.

      Ok, eight years. That’s still a very long time especially when you consider what the lieberals are now trying to do in terms of wage cuts. The supreme court agrees that the tactics taken have been unconstitutional and wrong. But lying and tearing up contracts the hallmarks of this government. Funny how they can find millions of dollars for Olympic legacy funds and television advertising and of course overstuffed executive boards but education, which most British Columbians would consider a WORTHY thing to spend public money on gets the shaft along with HEALTHCARE. As people like you age it’s going to be a real problem Eric.

      Oh the fast ferries. The total cost of that project was probably less than the fiberals OVERSPENT on the convention center. A building. In fact they overspend on every capital project costing the people of BC billions, not millions. Perhaps you don’t understand that scrap value is the physical value of the metal used. They clearly did not take the best offer, they used it as an opportunity to make it look like more of failure by the NDP. Politicking that is so cheap, yet so costly.

      1. Jenables, you’re rambling. Thank you for admitting that you were wrong.
        I agree. Personal taxes are better than corporate taxes. I won’t bother to search the rates, we all know them. That, of course, brings up another stupid NDP mistake. The HST. Axe the Tax, with Carole James leading the chant. We all love Sweden and its 25% Sales Tax but the crazy NDP had to oppose the efficient HST because that would have added 5% to a bag of Frit-O-Lays.

        We also remember that it was NDP Glen Clark that bid for the Vancouver Olympics. Did Glen Clark not have any legacy in mind?

        By the way, the Convention Centre is still there, making money for the province and the city. If the NDP had been more supportive and requested funding assistance from the federal government, the Convention Centre would have been underway sooner and not subject to the elevated costs and completion imperative, that were current when it was finally decided on.

        NDP Premier Dosanjh put the ferries up for auction. Anyone could have purchased them. Nevertheless, if you’d like to examine the Fast Ferry Fiasco further we are sure that the continuing saga will be welcomed. Except by the NDP, of course.

        1. I never said personal taxes were better than corporate taxes, I said if the government isn’t collecting corporate tax they’ll ding individuals, which is, btw, very close to the role the hst served. I like how you think the hst is an ndp mistake.. that makes no sense. If it was so wonderful, why would the lieberals explicitly state it wasn’t even on the table during the 2009 election? (I literally JUST had a very long conversation with someone on Twitter about hst, I’m really not into doing it again here. @bluejenables if you want)
          Your paragraph about the convention center is hilarious. Nobody is debating the usefulness of having a convention center; the issue is that it cost 883 million to build; it doubled in cost. And yet you somehow think it’s the ndp’s fault for not building it earlier… that’s called delusion, and it is more powerful than anything I can say to you.
          Yes, the ferries were put for sale by premier dosanjh… for 120 million. He didn’t sell them though. From wikipedia:

          Gordon Campbell of the BC Liberals auctioned off the PacifiCat fleet on March 24, 2003 for $19.4 million ($6.5 million/vessel) to Washington Marine Group. Further controversy erupted when it was revealed that the same company, which is a prominent financial backer of the Liberal Party, had offered $60 million for the vessels prior to the auction. Some claimed the aluminum ships were worth more as scrap. Others said the Indonesians were prepared to pay as much as $88 million.[3]

  5. You mean why didn’t Gordon Campbell sell them to the Indonesians? I don’t know, why don’t you ask him. (Assuming you understand that market conditions change year by year and 2003 is different from 2000)

  6. The Indonesian purchasers could have bought them for peanuts – but, they didn’t. Sounds like a worthless rumour. No pun intended. They sat around for four years and, just like anything with no buyers, they were sold off at auction.

    As I said before, I really wish one Fast Ferry had been kept as a public sculpture.

Subscribe to Viewpoint Vancouver

Get breaking news and fresh views, direct to your inbox.

Join 7,254 other subscribers

Show your Support

Check our Patreon page for stylish coffee mugs, private city tours, and more – or, make a one-time or recurring donation. Thank you for helping shape this place we love.

Popular Articles

See All

All Articles