Death and Parking: A Stupid Tax Laid to Rest


One of the dumbest concepts ever to come down the pike died a welcome death in the flurry of year-end government cleanups just before Christmas.

The province passed legislation to restructure the Vancouver regional transportation authority and in the process killed the hated Vancouver parking tax TransLink imposed in 2006.

This was a classic “tax-the-rich” concept that could only come out of the woolly-headed thinking of a bunch of small-town dinosaurs caught in some kind of ’70s class-war time warp.

These geniuses decided that a good way to raise money for public transit was to apply a tax to parking stalls within the city. After all, the thinking probably went, the stalls were all owned by rapacious capitalist corporations and they should pay for better transit for The People, especially the people they employed.

But diligent bureaucrats soon applied the tax to bike racks, walkways, warehouse and store loading bays and truck turnarounds – basically any piece of concrete that wasn’t municipally owned. What the heck, those capitalistic pigs could afford it. But they missed an important element as they began scouring business districts for parking tax revenue.

B.C. isn’t made up of giant corporations who run roughshod over a poor and downtrodden citizenry.

About 90 per cent of B.C. businesses today are small businesses, with the majority having five employees or less. So when you start taxing everything with a line painted on it, you’re not only hurting a business that’s probably struggling, you’re also whacking its employees and threatening their jobs. Big companies could easily pay the tax; the little ones couldn’t, and something like that is sometimes just enough to push them over the edge.

The tax was so hated that intense lobbying was mounted against it. Businesspeople bent the ear of every government minister at every turn. Organizations like the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association railed against it, reasoning (correctly) that this was not only skewing the competition for parking to the municipal side against the private, but also reducing the amount of parking downtown. A scrap-the-tax coalition of various groups lobbied long and loud against it.

Seems like the government brought some sense to the matter, and found a way to apply it. Transport minister Kevin Falcon’s new regional transportation authority replaced some of those parochial mutts who made up the Translink governing body with a group that was supposed to be thinking of the region instead of their own back yards. And in doing so it quietly killed the hated tax.

Of course there are problems with dumping the parking tax, and they were brought up by the NDP. Money for regional transportation initiatives has to come from somewhere. So, in this case, it’s going to be everybody – property taxes paid by commercial and residential property owners are going to go up.

But, hey, that’s the way it should be. Transit will be used by everybody, so why should one group suffer all the pain with an inordinate share?