July 29, 2014

By Margaret H. Johnson

Does anyone remember the 5 year plans from the old socialist USSR? The west used to mock these 5 year plans with great glee for lacking the most important principle to a thriving economy – namely - competition. Supply and demand was the ultimate standard for comparison between communist countries and western democracies. Supply and demand only functioned well in a free market that allowed prices (and profits) to be subjected to the power of choice (by the public.) If you produced a good product and the public liked it, then this would create demand. Prices would partly be determined by how many people liked the product (demand) and how much of the product was available (supply).

I remember one example of the many failed government economic policies of the Soviet Union. Companies or more accurately, producers of some product, were told to manufacture a certain quantity of something. In one case, a manufacturer was instructed to produce a certain quantity of nails within the 5 year plan. The manufacturer subsequently complied with the government edict and delivered what the government demanded, but the only problem was this: the nails were all the same size.

Flash forward to the present to Pitt Meadows, BC. The government body managing the Golden Ears toll bridge have implemented an increase in the toll even though there is no basis in reality to support any kind of increase. As reported in the Vancouver Sun today “Drivers will need to dig deeper into their pockets to cross the Golden Ears Bridge starting today, giving commuters even more incentive to avoid the historically underused, tolled span.”

This makes me shake my head in disbelief. I would say it’s time to change the management of the Golden Ears Bridge. Shouldn’t economic policies or corporate business plans be rooted in reality? Why don’t they conduct some scientifically valid research to confirm the cause for the poor traffic volumes? If it turns out that everyone else is correct - that it’s the toll – then they should consider reducing the price – not increasing the price -- to increase the traffic volumes that would undoubtedly increase revenues. This is what we have to do in the private sector.

The insular thinking of the officials in charge of the bridge reminds me of yet another comparison between governments. I recall a college instructor who asked the class what the difference was between a republican democracy and a parliamentary democracy. His answer: In a parliamentary democracy like Britain, they would respond to social problems like drug addiction, by trying various strategies. If one didn’t work, they would move on to something new, and keep on trying until they found something that would be effective.

Whereas, in the United States, the government would assemble experts in the field, form some kind of think tank that would research and study the problem until the most logical solution would be found. Then they would apply the solution to the problem, and keep on applying the same solution over and over again, even if it didn’t work.

Unfortunately, the officials in charge of the Golden Ears Bridge lack the logic, too.

Finally, it’s time that pseudo-government bodies, crown corporations and the like connected their policies to the overall economy – and make decisions that will most benefit the governments who represent the best interests of the public. Increasing the cost of transportation will most certainly affect those that have no choice but to use the Golden Ears bridge in a negative way – leaving less money for other consumer activities – and may well have the effect of reducing traffic and revenues even further.

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