Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre will be meeting with Island Corridor Foundation officials on Friday to talk about … well, we’re not sure what relevant, constructive conversation could be had with the ICF these days.
Parksville and Qualicum Beach representatives on the Regional District of Nanaimo board — Lefebvre and Mayor Teunis Westbroek — were part of the revolt to pull the RDN’s funding from the ICF. These communities have also stopped paying the ICF for crossing rights because, frankly, it’s not an operating railroad.
This is a blow to the ICF’s bottom line, although Nanaimo keeps paying, which is significant. The ICF’s vice chair and the RDN’s rep on the ICF board is Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay. Even if us hinterland folk see the writing on the wall and realize no rail service is ever going to come north of Nanaimo, McKay knows the re-birth of a Victoria-Nanaimo service would be good economic news for his city, so it makes sense for him to keep the dream alive.
Thing is, it remains a dream, certainly when considering any north-of-Nanaimo plans. The Snaw-Naw-As First Nation in Nanoose Bay has filed a lawsuit against the corridor and the federal government. Presumably, they see no reason for their land to be tied up in this dream.
The Snaw-Naw-As have called the ICF’s bluff, just as the RDN did. Forget for a moment it’s difficult to find anyone not drinking the ICF Kool-Aid who believes $20 million will make this a passable railway. And the provincial government isn’t going to release its portion of that $20 million until the federal government does the same.
Does anyone believe the federal government is going to release funding for the ICF while this lawsuit is in play? We don’t believe the previous federal government would even do that, let alone the kinder, gentler version that now rules the House of Commons.
The lawsuit is yet another indication any rail service north of Nanaimo is dead. Yes, there are rumblings from Port Alberni about the value of the spur from there to Qualicum Beach, but unless Catalyst Paper or some other company puts $100 million in the pot, that isn’t going to happen.
Passenger rail service may one day be re-started from Nanaimo to Victoria. And that will have some value for Parksville Qualicum Beach residents. However, with the RDN out and the Snaw-Naw-As lawsuit in, it’s clear service north of Nanaimo is never going to happen. It’s time the ICF came clean on this.
— Editorial by John Harding