EDITORIAL: ICF crumbling

It's time for a senior government to step in and protect this valuable resource

The Island Corridor Foundation is in the late stages of death by a thousand cuts.

The first casualty of war, or bureaucratic boondoggles, is the truth. That ship sailed long ago with the ICF.

First and foremost, there is currently no passenger rail service on Vancouver Island. The reasons for that failure are many, and not all of them are related to the action, or inaction, of the ICF.

Just most of them.

Consider the following list, far from complete, of stumbles and hurdles that have plagued this crumbling coalition of regional districts and First Nations:

• The ICF sues one of their board members, Regional District of Nanaimo director Julian Fell. This wasn’t red flag number one, but it was a bright, shiny marker for sure.

• The RDN passes a motion to rescind its $1 million commitment to the ICF.

• The RDN passes what’s essentially a non-confidence motion related to the management of the ICF.

• The ICF responds by extending the contract of their manager for 30 months.

• The federal government, even after a change in the party of power, still refuses to release more than $7 million in funding, which also puts close to $14 million in funding from junior governments (the province, regional districts) in a holding pattern.

• Most importantly, and directly related to the reluctance of the feds, the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation initiates a civil lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court against the ICF and the Attorney General of Canada over the rail line, asking for the return of Snaw-Naw-As land that was taken in the last century to build the railway, which runs through the reserve in Nanoose Bay.

The ICF has spoken about transparency and accountability. It’s been all talk. Its news releases come with no attribution, flowery phrases with no identifiable speakers. It renews the contract of its CEO without any request for proposals or advertising for the job, an irresponsible, non-transparent, unaccountable act by a foundation that seeks taxpayer funding. Truth, transparency and accountability are a casualty in a situation where the board seems hunkered down in a foxhole, consistently on the defensive.

It’s time for someone, some government, to step in. The asset — the rail corridor — is too valuable to the people of Vancouver Island for this charade to continue. Don McRae (Comox) and cabinet minister Michelle Stilwell (Parksville-Qualicum), the only two government MLAs on the Island, need to get involved.

— Editorial by John Harding