EDITORIAL: End the charade

Does anyone really believe there is going to be passenger rail service on Vancouver Island?

As we flip another page on the calendar and a new year is upon us, some things don’t change.

There is still no rail service on Vancouver Island and no realistic chance it will happen any time soon.

In July of 2014 — that’s right, 2014 — the Regional District of Nanaimo’s board of directors voted to give the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) $1 million in taxpayer funds for the restoration of a service that was shut down for safety concerns in 2011. That vote was contentious and won by the weight of the Nanaimo councillors who sit on that board.

The ICF’s Graham Bruce has consistently said money ($20 million in total) from the regional districts of the Island, with matching funds from the provincial and federal governments (your money again, just from different sources) would be enough to fix the rail line and have it in shape to re-start passenger service from Courtenay to Victoria.

Despite hollow, worth-little comments from B.C.’s transportation minister, the ICF still has not received the funds from the province or the feds and as far as we can tell, hasn’t replaced one rotted rail tie. Oh, never mind the bridges like the one over French Creek, they will be fine, we are told.

The ICF held a news conference in April of 2014 at Nanaimo’s railway station announcing an agreement with Southern Rail. Apparently, when it comes to actual rail service, that agreement and $2 will get you a cup of coffee. Back on that sunny photo-opp day at the train station in April of 2014, then-RDN chairman and French Creek representative Joe Stanhope was asked if he thought $20 million was enough to re-start passenger rail service on the Island. “I think the infrastructure deficit is a little more than that . . . I think $100 million,” said Stanhope.

What has the ICF done since it secured a million bucks from the taxpayers of the RDN? Well, it certainly hasn’t cut the ribbon on the first train ride. In fact, the only thing of substance the ICF has seemingly done since 2014 is sue the Errington/Coombs director on the RDN board, Julian Fell.

New RDN chair Bill Veenhof (Bowser/Deep Bay/Qualicum Bay) voted against giving the ICF the $1 million in RDN taxpayer money. He has a real chance in the new year to put an end to this charade by demanding some real answers from the ICF and senior governments. The RDN can then take that $1 million and do something real with it, like housing initiatives for seniors and the homeless from Cedar to Deep Bay.

— Editorial by John Harding

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