Regular readers of our letters to the editor will have noticed the renewal of the age-old debate about tolls on the Burnside Expressway.
To be clear, the new roadway – which gets under construction this year – will be built using traditional government financing and will not include any form of tolling. However, that doesn't mean we can't still argue about it.
In last month's letter column, former MLA Jerry Pye announced he intended to run for regional council in the next municipal election, running in the newly created Burnside-East Dartmouth district. In making this announcement, Pye stated he was a strong supporter of the businesses in Burnside despite butting heads with the Greater Burnside Business Association (GBBA) several times, especially over the construction of the Expressway.
Pye has always opposed the use of tolling to pay for public infrastructure, insisting this is akin to taxing people twice for the same service.
He contrasted this with the position of the GBBA, which he said supported the use of tolls. A quick glance at the letter column on the facing page of this issue will show you the GBBA's response to Pye's shot across their bow. The Association strongly objects to Pye's assertion, saying it never endorsed the use of polls or enlisted the aid of politicians to advocate for such, although it did provide a platform for members and guests to debate the issue at its regular meetings.
One thing I can say for sure is that Pye and myself have certainly come down on opposite sides of this issue several times over the years. Although I have no particular love of tolls per se, there was a time when it looked like the Expressway was never going to get built the traditional way and I believe it's too important to the future of Burnside to go unconstructed. Therefore, I used this space in past issues to state my support for tolls if it meant getting the road built right away.
Luckily, all of this is now moot. The current provincial government has committed to building the first phase of the Expressway beginning this year and the city has agreed to construct some additional portions to allow access to additional land for the future growth of the Park. However, I suspect this issue won't disappear quite that easily.
Before wrapping up this month's missive, I would be remiss if I didn't offer a sincere thank you to Councillor Jim Smith for his able representation of the interests of Burnside during his time as its council member. Smith's former district of North Dartmouth has been split by the recent boundary changes and he has announced his intention to run in the new Central Dartmouth district, which incorporates much of his former area, but doesn't include Burnside.
Smith's work on behalf of the Park over the past several years has directly contributed to the better lines of communication that now exist between the GBBA and regional council. His efforts have brought home the importance of the Park's well being to all of HRM, not just his district. His efforts have resulted in several improvements in Burnside, including increased sidewalk installation and improved attention to the Park's transit needs. He will be missed and I wish him luck in the upcoming municipal election. Even if he represents a different area, I know Burnside will get a fair hearing with him on council.