n six short months, voters in B.C. will go to the polls to elect a provincial government.

Just what are the issues for residents of our region? There are many, and we shall explore them in the months ahead.

For starters, what about this railway proposal?

As Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek wisely pointed out recently, even well-used railways in high-population centres require subsidies.

So, for the purposes of this piece, let’s assume any railway running up and down Vancouver Island would require annual subsidies from the provincial government, also known as your wallet.

Where do the local candidates from the two major provincial parties stand on this issue?

NDP candidate Barry Avis says he supports subsidies for the Island railway, but with a caveat. He says it should be done in steps and cars should only roll where there’s going to be users, which means something way short of Comox to Victoria to start.

Incumbent MLA Ron Cantelon of the B.C. Liberals said he remains supportive and he does not believe the railway will be coming to taxpayers for more money. He says once the track is re-opened to standards with the money already committed, deals are in place for Southern Rail to maintain the railbed and Via Rail to subsidize the passenger service.

When we first started to explore this resurgence-of-the-rail story a couple of months ago, we admit to feeling some romance about the ride. That soured as real questions arose about the financial, practical and infrastructural viability of the project, questions that we believe have not been answered fully and openly for the public.

After discussions with many, and looking at other old railbeds in other locations and their use (Kettle Valley Railway in the Interior, for example) we believe the current corridor could be put to use in a much more sustainable, environmentally-friendly way.

While Cantelon’s assurances about money are, well, reassuring, we still believe the linear park option should be fully explored.

— Editorial by John Harding




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