EDITORIAL: Railway dreaming

Is Island Corridor Foundation CEO Graham Bruce's house of cards falling in?

We find it difficult to believe there will be passenger rail service from Victoria to Courtenay any time soon, and perhaps never again.

Despite Island Corridor Foundation CEO Graham Bruce’s unbending confidence (see story today), his best-case scenario date for start-up, May 2014, doesn’t seem plausible.

We wrote in this space months ago it may be time to consider options other than rail for the corridor. The Victoria Times-Colonist followed with a similar sentiment just a few weeks ago. Qualicum Beach town council passed a motion to that effect on July 8, showing its lack of confidence Bruce and the foundation will be able to re-start passenger service.

Is Bruce’s house of cards starting to cave in? One thing is certain: if ICF has a solid financial plan and any measure of accountability, you won’t find them on its website.

As with any other issue, communication is key. Bruce has been less-than-stellar about returning calls from The NEWS, but he did so late last week and responded — with gumption — to his detractors, including Qualicum Beach town council, inviting them to “chirp away.”

That all makes for good quotes and sound bites, and maybe the ICF and Qualicum Beach are now officially “friends off,” but what about the meat of the matter, the money?

Qualicum Beach town councillor and Regional District of Nanaimo director Dave Willie says the ICF is “months and months behind” in its financial reporting. Bruce says that’s not true and he says Willie can find the information he needs if he looks for it through his RDN connections.

What about us, the great unwashed taxpayer? Where can we find financial reports that would make us more confident about what Bruce is doing and where the rail project is headed?

Certainly not the ICF website (islandrail.ca). As far as financial reporting goes, it has a 2011 financial statement and a 2012 budget, likely created in 2011. Therefore, there is no meaningful financial information for the public to see on the ICF website that’s not about two years old. Yes, anyone could probably dig into the finances through other sources but the point here is about the sharing of information.

Leave a void, someone will fill it. The ICF and Graham Bruce continually leave voids through which one could ride a train.

— Editorial by John Harding