Confederation Bridge—Bridge TollsPublished on 26 September 2017 Hansard and Statements by Senator Percy Downe
Hon. Percy E. Downe:
Minister, welcome back to the Senate. It’s a chance for you to talk about your favourite topic, I’m sure: tolls and the Confederation Bridge, which I’m sure your staff have prepared you for in advance.
Minister, as you know, Prince Edward Islanders pay a toll of $46.50 — let me repeat that: $46.50 — every time we cross Confederation Bridge, which is owned by the Government of Canada. Confederation Bridge, as you know, is a replacement for the ferry service that was a condition under which Prince Edward Island joined Confederation.
The Government of Canada is building two other bridges: the Gordie Howe International Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, and the Champlain Bridge in Montreal. All three bridges are owned by the Government of Canada, so why is the Government of Canada pitting one group of Canadians against another group by charging tolls on two bridges but not on the other one, which will be toll-free? After all, Confederation Bridge is a replacement bridge for the ferry service.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Amarjeet Sohi, P.C., M.P., Minister of Infrastructure and Communities: Thank you, senator. Whenever the issue of tolls comes up, I always feel a little bit of heat.
The distinction that we make, honourable senator, is that whenever we are building a new bridge, tolling is an option that is explored to pay for the cost of that bridge. When we are replacing the existing infrastructure, in the case of the Champlain Bridge, it’s an existing bridge and it’s being replaced because it has reached the end of its useful life. That’s why we committed to removing the toll on the Champlain Bridge.
This is a new structure replacing another mode of transportation, like the ferry service you have cited. That’s a new bridge. It is a new piece of infrastructure for which we feel tolling is an option that we should explore.