EDITORIAL: Don’t expect any rail service to Parksville and Qualicum Beach

There's been nothing but talk from the ICF and the provincial government for the last three years

The provincial government says it is waiting for confirmation from the feds.

The federal government says it is waiting for the province.

Just another confusing day in the life of the Island Corridor Foundation.

And we’re no closer to passenger rail service on the Island than we were three years ago.

B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone pulled the old non-announcement announcement trick on Thursday. If this whole situation didn’t involve tens of millions of taxpayers dollars, it would be hilarious.

Stone said “we are one step closer” to a fully operational rail service on Vancouver Island after his announcement on Thursday. What made him say this is anyone’s guess, because there was nothing new, no step closer, within the news release Stone’s ministry sent to the masses on

Thursday.

“The government of B.C. has affirmed its commitment to provide $7 million to the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) to support the future  of the E&N rail line on Vancouver Island,” said the lead sentence in the release, followed later by: “The provincial funds will be provided to the Island Corridor Foundation once it has confirmed that $7.5 million in federal funding is in place and, through a tendering process, that the upgrade work can be completed within the $20.4 million it has budgeted.”

We called the only MP from Vancouver Island who sits on the government side in the House of Commons, John Duncan. He told us the federal money has always been there, “contingent on the province doing their due diligence. If they’re good to go, we’re good to go.”

In December of 2014, a Ministry of Transportation official told us the B.C. Safety Authority had engaged a consultant to review the ICF’s upgrade plan. In that same story, Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell said “safety is my first priority.”

While Stilwell told us the government is now “comfortable” with what the B.C  Safety Authority is saying about the upgrade plan, nowhere in the news release Thursday does it say the ICF’s plan has been given the thumbs up by the authority. Nowhere in the release Thursday does it say the ICF can actually do the upgrade work for $20 million.

The release did say the plan is for service to Qualicum Beach on Wednesdays and weekends. We still don’t believe $20 million will get this service up and running, certainly not north of Nanaimo.

— Editorial by John Harding