Nanaimo-Alberni MP sends a warning to AVICC delegates

James Lunney urged delegates not to take any actions that might affect future rail service on Vancouver Island

The future of rail service on Vancouver Island was not an official agenda item this past weekend, but MP James Lunney sent a letter to AVICC delegates urging them not to take any action regarding the ICF.

Regional District of Nanaimo chair Joe Stanhope said he received a letter from Lunney addressed to the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities delegates on the eve of their annual conference this past weekend in Parksville and Qualicum Beach. The NEWS has obtained a copy of the letter.

“I can assure you that agreement (between VIA Rail and Southern Rail to re-start passenger service) is in the final days of completion,” wrote Lunney. “I urge you to put aside disappointments and please do not take upon yourselves actions that would scuttle the future of rail on Vancouver Island. If you do, you carry that responsibility into history.”

Stanhope said rail service and issues surrounding the Island Corridor Foundation were not part of the formal program for the AVICC conference.

“There was discussion in the corridors but it didn’t come up before the conference at all,” Stanhope said Monday. “It was not on the agenda and it didn’t come up.”

The RDN has a no-confidence-in-the-ICF motion on the agenda for its regular board meeting April 22. The ICF’s annual general meeting is set for this Thursday, and Stanhope said he has asked for a legal opinion on whether that AGM should be open to media and the public. While he will be attending as a member of the ICF, Stanhope said he has been told the ICF’s AGM is a closed-door affair.

“It should be open to the public,” said Stanhope. “And a lot of (RDN) directors are quite interested in attending.”

ICF CEO Graham Bruce confirmed Monday the AGM is closed to the public.

“Those meetings are not public meetings,” said Bruce. “It’s the way the constitution of the ICF is set up.”

The ICF (owners of the track and accompanying lands) announced April 8 that VIA and Southern had reached a tentative agreement on re-starting passenger rail service on Vancouver Island. VIA officials told The NEWS there is no agreement. While others have said it will take upwards of $150 million, Bruce said April 8 suggested the $20 million of funding previously promised by three levels of government was enough to get the railway in safe condition for passenger service.

The railway stopped operating passenger service in 2011 due to track safety concerns.