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Highway toll called a business-killer

Growing opposition to new levy

NNSL Photo

Lise Wilson of Arctic Defensive Driving School shows off some of the 300 names she has collected so far in a petition opposing the proposed highway permit fee. Wilson will be at the Centre Square Mall from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday. The petition is also at some city businesses. - Terry Kruger/NNSL photo

Terry Kruger
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Oct 05/01) - A city manufacturer says a proposed highway fee could destroy its fledgling export market.

"It will close us down," said Sandra Elliott this week. She owns the Fibreglass North with her husband Bruce.

NNSL Photo

On the road

  • Government figures are based on 20,600 truck trips in 1999, 29,715 in 2002, 26,480 in 2003, 27,733 in 2004, 28,327 in 2005 and 26,088 in 2008.
  • Estimated annual impact on motor and heating fuel and groceries: $132 in Rae-Edzo and $121 in Yellowknife.
  • Government estimates the cost of freight will increase between two cents and 37 cents per kilogram.
  • Amount of paved highways: 661 km
  • Dust-controlled gravel: 883.1 km
  • Untreated gravel: 467 km

  • Source: Commercial Vehicle Trip Permit Fee Financial Impacts; Investing in Roads for People and the Economy: A Highway Strategy for the Northwest Territories.

    They employ up to eight people making holding tanks, water and sewer tanks and they're now researching development of a new product, a fibreglass utility pole.

    Eighty per cent of their goods stay in the Northwest Territories, but they've just started shipping to Alaska.

    "That (permit fee) will stop (exports) right there," said Sandra Elliott.

    At the centre of their complaints are territorial government plans to levy a permit fee on transport trucks to raise $100 million.

    The fee for a "B-Train" truck that hauls groceries or other goods would be $1,100 for the trip from the Alberta border to Yellowknife. That would go on top of the approximately $3,500 it already costs a company to bring a truck-load of goods to Yellowknife. The fee is also charged on goods trucked back out.

    Elliott and others said they don't believe the government has done its homework on the toll.

    "They've done so little analysis of who's affected," said Mike Vaydik, executive director of the NWT-Nunavut Chamber of Mines.

    He's heading a coalition of industry and business groups that oppose the new fee.

    "It's going to drive up costs," he explained. "We have a consultant hired to put together a report on who's going to pay."

    Toll on the public

    NWT Motor Transport Association president John Johansen said the public will carry the biggest load.

    The government has estimated the fee will collect $19.9 million in 2002 from an estimated 29,715 truck trips.

    Of that, government will spend $2.3 million on administration and have to pay out $2.1 million in permit fees.

    Johansen said trucks heading for the mines will account for 8,000 loads. "That's $12 million coming out of your pocket and mine," he said.

    Trucking companies and businesses are expected to pass that extra cost onto consumers.

    Prices for everything from groceries to gasoline, building supplies to airline tickets will increase.

    "A lot of people are saying it costs too much to live here already," said Lise Wilson of Arctic Defensive Driving School. She has collected more than 300 names so far on a petition against the toll.

    The company she works for trains about 20 people each year to become truck drivers. They take small loads to Edmonton to offset cost of sending students out to get highway driving experience.

    "If the toll goes in, we won't be able to do B-train training any more," said Wilson.

    Committee hearings

    The six-member standing committee of the NWT legislature will hear submissions in Yellowknife Oct. 17 and 18. Hearings will be held in Committee Room A of the Legislative Assembly Building.

    On Oct. 17, groups are booked to give presentations between 9 a.m. and noon, 1:30-5 p.m. and 7-10 p.m.

    On Oct. 18, Highways Minister Vince Steen will testify at 9 a.m. and Finance Minister Joe Handley speaks at 10:30 a.m.

    To get on the list to make a presentation to the committee, call 669-2299.