Progress Party to cut road tolls

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The Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, FrP) leader Siv Jensen announced road toll reforms on Friday, during her speech at the party’s first national convention since forming government with the Conservatives (Høyre) last year. Jensen also slammed the legacy of the former Labour (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap) coalition, particularly its work on immigration and integration policy.

Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, FrP) leader Siv Jensen making her speech at the party's first national congress since forming government last year. Jensen announced reforms to road tolls, and criticized the immigration and integration legacy left by the former Labour (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap) coalition. PHOTO: Fremskrittspartiet

Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, FrP) leader Siv Jensen making her speech at the party’s first national congress since forming government last year. Jensen announced reforms to road tolls, and criticized the immigration and integration legacy left by the former Labour (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap) coalition. PHOTO: Fremskrittspartiet

Jensen announced that work was underway to reduce the rates motorists paid on Norway’s roads, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “We will merge the current dozens of road toll stations to a few,” she said. “That will give lower borrowing costs and better purchasing agreements – and therefore lower toll rates. In some places the fees can be lowered, in other places the collection period will be shorter.”

Transport Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen said more of the toll money would go to the upkeep of roads, and less to interest payments. “We’re ensuring that we can finance roads in a better way,” Solvik-Olsen said in his speech. “The state will take more of the bill. Motorists will pay for what it costs to build roads, not for interest costs. The government will also go in more actively to make the interest costs lower.” No timeframe was given for the reforms.

Rivals criticized
Jensen also used her speech to criticize the work of the former coalition government, led by the Progress Party’s traditional political rival Labour. She said former Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and incoming party leader Jonas Gahr Støre had left a weak legacy, reported newspaper Aftenposten.

“For eight years Ap sat in government and talked about action,” she said. “Jonas Gahr Støre even led a selection that came with several good suggestions. But now he shows his true self. He would not carry out anything then, and he will not carry out anything now. The legacy is both a bad immigration policy and a lousy integration policy. We should therefore be happy that we have two dynamic ministers from FrP who run them now: Anders Anundsen and Solveig Horne.”

Jensen also criticized Labour’s approach to individual freedoms, what she described as “violent bureaucracy” and its poor aged care. “Ever since FrP was formed our main opponent has been the Labour Party,” she said. “Where they think of the government, we think of the community. Where they think of politicians, we think of people. During Ap‘s eight years in government taxes increased by over NOK 7 billion (USD 1.2 billion). One month after we came into government we reduced taxes by NOK 7 billion.”

More to be done
Jensen was moved to tears watching a video on the Progress Party’s 40 year history, and its path to government. “We have stood on the little man’s side in the fight against the system and bureaucracy for 41 years,” she said.

Jensen admitted she expected a “kick in the shins” from grassroots members of the party who wanted more action. “Even though we have done a lot already, we have also had to take some losses,” she said. “I know that you are impatient, and I am too. I am very proud, but very hungry. It is the FrP soul, and that is our strength. But sometimes I also try to stop a little, and be happy that we have implemented some of what FrP has wanted to do for 41 years.”

Ahead of the congress at Gardermoen, Jensen told NRK many topics would be up for discussion over the weekend, including cuts to the sick leave scheme, Ikea cabins for refugees in tent camps, more police, a national ban on begging, renegotiation of the European Economic Area agreement and the sale of wine in shops. Also on the table would be the party’s opposition to an Oslo Olympics, the government expropriation of private property, and windmills.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate