The mayor of Parksville declined an invitation from the Island Corridor Foundation to attend a day-long roundtable in his city tomorrow (Friday, Feb. 3).
The local chamber of commerce and the tourism association didn’t even receive an invite to attend and the ICF did not notify The NEWS about the event.
“I was invited, I’m not going,” said Parkville Mayor Marc Lefebvre, who also sits on the Regional District of Nanaimo’s board of directors.
The RDN board voted last year to take back the $900,000 in taxpayer money it had committed to the ICF for the re-start of passenger rail service on Vancouver Island. The City of Parksville and the Town of Qualicum Beach stopped paying the ICF years ago for rail crossings in their communities.
The ICF has continuously said it could re-start passenger rail service on the Island for $20.9 million. It was to get the money from the regional districts and the provincial and federal governments. The RDN pulled its funding and the federal government has yet to provide money, which would trigger the province’s contribution. There are First Nations on the Island, including the Snaw-naw-as (Nanoose Bay), also supposed partners of the ICF, who have initiated lawsuits against the ICF.
Lefebvre is one of many who have consistently said there’s no way the railway could be brought to standard for passenger rail service with $21 million, even if those funds became available to the ICF. He said that’s why he is not attending the event Friday and why his city stopped paying the crossing fees to the ICF
“I still don’t believe it, so what’s he point (of attending Friday)?” said Lefebvre. “And why would I pay for fees when I’m not getting any service.”
The ICF’s office administrator said Thursday that she sent invitations to a wide list of community leaders in early January.
“I found out about it on Facebook,” said Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce CEO Kim Burden. “I don’t think we are on their A-list. We haven’t been really supportive, not because we don’t want to see rail traffic, but because we have never seen a business plan that supports it.”
Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism Association executive director Blain Sepos also won’t be attending Friday’s event.
“I wasn't invited officially and I don't think I know of anyone else who was, other than maybe the mayor,” said Sepos.
The ICF office administrator said there will be 60 people attending the event, which runs from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Tigh-Na-Mara. The ICF’s website calls it a “community round table” and those attending (pre-registration was required) will have to pay $30 (lunch is included).
“The event will include speakers from partnering organizations involved with the corridor foundation to provide an in-depth look of the current and future opportunities,” according to the iCF’s website.