Hon. Percy E. Downe:
Senator Harder, yesterday the Auditor General in his report indicated that the lost revenue for not charging tolls on the Champlain Bridge will be at least $3 billion over the first 30 years. In other words, $100 million a year will be the cost to the Government of Canada and the taxpayers of Canada for having no tolls on the Champlain Bridge. Why does the government consider that good value for the money?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question, and I suspect he has another bridge in mind in the context of that question. Let me simply say that, as he well knows, the decision with respect to the tolls was consequent to commitments made in the last election.
Senator Downe: Thank you very much.
Earlier today, I tabled a report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who looked at the cost estimates of the Confederation Bridge. It was his conclusion that to eliminate the tolls on the Confederation Bridge would be less than $17 million a year.
We have two bridges owned by the Government of Canada, both paid for by the taxpayers of Canada. One is receiving no tolls at a cost of $100 million a year, and the second bridge has a toll of $47 to cross every time a Prince Edward Islander or any other Canadian leaves Prince Edward Island, and it would cost less than $17 million to eliminate those tolls. Why is the government treating these two bridges and these groups of Canadians differently depending on where they live geographically?
Senator Harder: Again, I thank the honourable senator for his question. I will certainly take it as a representation and make his views known yet again to the government.
Let me simply say that, as he well knows, both projects have different formulas attached to their construction, and that reveals itself in the toll situation. But he is always right in bringing to the attention of the government and this chamber the views of his constituents.