ICF responds to criticism

Rail corridor group says it had already taken steps to act on items that became recommendations from the aKd Resource report

The Island Corridor Foundation says it will implement a number of recommendations from a report released last month that suggested the organization has lost the trust and support of the public.

The report prepared by aKd Resource for the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities provided 18 recommendations for the ICF and other agencies. It also raised questions and made statements about the finances, governance and management of the organization that owns the Island’s rail corridor.

“Several of the recommendations are already in effect and all will receive serious consideration,” ICF board chair Judith Sayers said in a news release this week. “It was decided at the July board meeting to open the Annual General Meeting to the public, and the recommendations concerning financial reporting aspects of the Foundation will be reviewed with our auditors and those that have corporate legal implications have been discussed with our solicitor. We will work with our member regional districts to ensure ICF directors are not restricted in reporting due the Schlenker court decision. The ICF will also be updating the business plan and co-ordinating the Southern Rail strategic plan for presentation at the annual general meeting”.

aKd Resource said it had input from 40 people for its report, including Sayers and the ICF’s CEO Graham Bruce.

Former Liberal MLA Graham Bruce was hired to be the ICF’s executive director in June of 2009. Granneke Management is Bruce’s consulting business. Granneke’s contract with the ICF was up in May. It was renewed by the ICF board in late May for a term that doesn’t end until November of 2018.

“A recurring theme in the interviews with regional district board members was the lack of trust in, and credibility of, the Chief Executive Officer and by association the ICF board,” said the aKd report released Sept. 13.

“Much of this dissatisfaction was generated in the last couple of years when expectations were raised by overly optimistic predictions and public promises of funding expectations, contracts or agreements which then did not materialize… while some of these perceptions may be grounded in reality, they are nonetheless by association damaging to the ICF. This is particularly true for many of those interviewed who saw the recent contract extension of the CEO to be an example of the level and quality of oversight by the board of directors.”

Sayers said this week the ICF Board works closely with Bruce and has confidence in his ability to manage the daily affairs of the ICF.

Retired View Royal Mayor and former ICF Director Graham Hill said this week through the ICF news release that during his years on the board, Bruce did a good job of managing the affairs of the ICF in a very politically complex environment.

“He worked closely with the board while dealing with five regional districts, 14 First Nations, 14 local governments, the provincial and federal governments, Southern Rail and the general public, all in an environment that is highly regulated and has complex interests: it’s a tough job,” said Hill.

The ICF also suggested the aKd report should have listed the names of the 40 people interviewed. The ICF also questioned why certain people and entities were not interviewed for the report.

Hill said he was surprised the aKd report does not indicate consultation with Southern Railway, the ICF rail operator of record. “Without Southern as a partner it is likely a rail service connecting the eastern island seaboard of communities would cease to exist,” said Hill. “The ICF board were very aware of special interests for rail use and of course those who are uncomfortable with rail as an alternative mode of transportation. It would have been helpful to my understanding of context if the report had recognized the 40 people contacted and attributed their interests. This is a significant information resource that may have been useful to the sponsors and the ICF Board.”

ICF co-chair, Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay, said “As the report states in point three, there is also a responsibility for people to keep themselves informed and take advantage of the meetings organized or offered and to view the ICF website. I think the report should have been more transparent in whom and what was pushing the review agenda.”

The ICF said it has initiated a number of steps to provide better communication amongst members, including the establishment of the liaison committees and the public release of board meeting notes following each meeting. The ICF said through the news release this week it does not restrict board members from reporting to their respective organizations, “however the Schlenker (court) decision has caused individual ICF directors considerable consternation in reporting to their boards due to perceived conflict of interest.”

The Regional District of Nanaimo rescinded last year on its commitment to provide the ICF with almost $1 million in funding. That was part of the $20.9 million in funding from different levels of government the ICF has said it could use to get passenger rail started again on Vancouver Island.

The RDN also passed a motion in March saying the board “does not support the retention or continuation of Granneke Management by the ICF board.”’

The ICF is a not‐for‐profit corporation established specifically to preserve the 319 kilometre rail/trail corridor between Victoria and Courtenay, Duncan to Lake Cowichan and Parksville to Port Alberni. The corridor includes both rail and trail initiatives. Formed in 2003, the ICF is a registered charity, run by a board of 12 directors, representing 11 First Nations, five regional districts and two directors‐at‐large comprised of stakeholder communities along the corridor.

Passenger rail service on Vancouver Island was discontinued in 2011 due to unsafe track conditions. The ICF, mostly through Graham Bruce, has consistently said it could get passenger rail service running again from Victoria to Courtenay with about $21 million from its partners, including the RDN. Some politicians and RDN board members, including those from Parksville, Qualicum Beach and surrounding areas, have disputed that claim.

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