Charging not free

There are some misconceptions about Qualicum Beach charging program

I’d like to respond to two positions stated in John Harding’s editorial in the April 30 edition of The NEWS (‘Not fully charged’).

I disagree that “the whole notion that (governments) provide (this particular and most other) services is a good one.”

That perspective embodies much of what is wrong with our governments, of all levels.

Government’s mandate should be restricted to identifying and promoting policies and objectives deemed desirable for society, and the putting in place of the necessary environment or framework that will allow or encourage others — business, individuals, non-profit organizations — to achieve those policies and objectives.

It is not government’s place to actually undertake the activities themselves that will result in the achievement of the desired objectives.

In the specific case at issue, why should the government of Parksville install and operate electric vehicle charging stations?

Their mandate should include no more than the determination that the existence of the charging stations is a desirable end (and note that I take no position on the relative merits or lack thereof of that particular position), and then allow (or encourage, or require, as the case may be) the private sector to accomplish that end.

Government thinking that they actually have to perform these activities or work at the tasks involved in achieving the desired ends themselves, inevitably leads to government growth and deficits.

Furthermore, the charging stations are not free to use.

Whether actually built and operated by the government, or by the private sector with government subsidies (or even grants, which merely means the subsidies are an extra step or several removed from the taxpayer contributors), there is a cost attached to them.

Calling their use “free” ignores the reality that someone other than the direct beneficiary or user of the service is paying for someone else’s use of it at less than its true cost.

A complete and honest presentation of the issue would include a statement showing the true cost, and a clear statement that ‘x’ per cent of the cost is being subsidized by “society” (read, the taxpayer) because government has deemed their use a desirable objective and it is socially responsible for non-users to fund it.

Those two messages are increasingly ignored by government leaders and would-be leaders, and increasingly forgotten by the public.

Lotar Maurer

Qualicum Beach