I’m amazed it has taken until now, but it appears that people other than me and free-enterprise spokes-creep Harvey Enchin are starting to notice that the current government of BC wants to kill Air Care, for no good reason.
If you haven’t been paying attention (and why would you, as there has been virtually no public discussion on this topic?), the region’s only transportation air quality program is under the knife because the Premier has decided it doesn’t work anymore. She has no actual evidence that it doesn’t work. In reality, every time there has been an external audit or analysis of the program it has returned evidence that the program is effective (and will be for at least another decade), cost efficient, provides significant economic benefits for small business, and has spin-off benefits for automotive safety and health care savings.
The only argument against AirCare seems to be that it is kind of inconvenient. Apparently, requiring less than 50% of BC’s car owners to go to a testing centre once every two years, spend 15 minutes and pay $45 to demonstrate that their >10-year-old car still has functioning emission controls is a great big hassle, and for that reason our PR-savvy Premier wants to ax the most cost-effective air quality protection measure in the Province.
So at the risk of repeating myself, here are the reasons we should all be against the shuttering of air care:
Local governments: Metro Vancouver has already passed two resolutions asking that the Province not end the program. This makes simple sense: AirCare demonstrably reduces air pollution in the region, and makes our cities cleaner, healthier, more beautiful, and more liveable, while costing local governments nothing. The same goes for the Fraser Valley Regional District, who have been only tacitly in favour of AirCare, despite the disproportionate impact that vehicle emissions have on their communities. Hopefully, our local governments themselves will also join in and request that the Provincial government re-assess this move.
Unions: Some argue this is about 110 union jobs, and that is why this story is currently in the news, but that is a small part of the story. The AirCare program is run by a private contractor, with only a few government employees. There is an administration level, but the majority of the $19 Million program cost does not go to union wages.
Small Business: Auto Repair division: According to independent economic analysis of the program, there is an annual $35 Million economic spin-off effect to the automobile repair industry from AirCare. These are not predominantly Big Union jobs, but mom-and-pop operations across the City, along with a few of the bigger players like Canadian Tire. Simply put, end AirCare, and these people lose income.
Small Business: New Car Dealer division: Because Air Care has resulted in a measurable updating of the domestic car fleet (and this has been measured against other jurisdictions with similar socio-economic settings but without such a program). In other words, people have bought more cars, and according to external audit, this has resulted in an annual $19 Million in benefit to the New Car Dealers of BC. Where are they on this topic?
The Ministry of Health: The measured effects of AirCare on the health of British Columbians – both in reducing air pollutants and in providing for a newer, safer fleet of cars – could add up to $77 Million in health care savings province wide.
Everyone who doesn’t drive, or drives a car newer than 2008: Because the program is 100% self-financing, you get all the air quality, health, and livability benefits of the program without it costing you a dime. Although administered by TransLink, the program neither draws money from the TransLink Budget or provides revenue to it. It is, despite the protestations tax-opinionater-for-hire Jordan Bateman, no tax money is used to run AirCare, this is not a Government cash cow.
Government has been creating some bafflegab about replacing AirCare with a system to get smoky big trucks off the road. We in New Westminster know as well as anyone about the impacts of diesel truck exhaust, and reducing it is a noble goal, but the introduction of such a program does not preclude the existence of AirCare. Instead, Air Care, in it’s proven efficiency, cost effectiveness, and self-funding model, may be the best template upon which to build a heavy truck program. To suggest both cannot run in parallel is to suggest we have a provincial government that cannot walk and chew gum at the same time.
I expect more from a government.