It’s possible the Regional District of Nanaimo’s withdrawal of $1 million from the Island Corridor Foundation does not spell the death of passenger rail service on Vancouver Island.
At first glance, it seems to be another domino, a key piece pulled in the house of cards that is the coalition of regional districts and First Nations that are partners in the corridor.
More important was the card pulled out of the house by the Snaw-naw-as, who have taken the foundation to court to ask for their land back.
Could this still work? Is there a way to re-start the process?
It’s possible, from a Nanaimo to Victoria perspective, for the passenger-rail plan to be re-born. North of Nanaimo? Forget about it. See the sentence above about the Nanoose First Nation. Or the views of those who represent Qualicum Beach, Parksville, Bowser, etc.
So, do we north of Nanaimo care about passenger rail service from the Harbour City to Victoria? Sure we do. Just don’t ask us for our tax dollars.
There are a few things that have to happen if this train dream is ever going to become a reality. First and foremost are changes in the corridor’s governance, which includes a commitment to transparency.
The current model does not work. The 10 First Nations and five regional districts who are partners in the corridor should appoint representatives who are accountable to their councils and the people they represent. They should be able to report any and all corridor business in a timely manner. We understand some land issues must be discussed behind closed doors — that’s also true for municipal councils — but a lack of real transparency is a pine beetle that eventually kills every tree.
For example, some say recent conflict-of-interest rulings mean the RDN’s rep on the ICF, because he has been made ICF co-chair, is limited about what he can tell his fellow RDN board members about the business of the ICF. That’s ridiculous.
Change the model.
Hold your ICF board meetings in the open. Rise and report on any motions that come from in-camera meetings. Post (in a timely fashion, like every month) your financials, including your expenses and revenue. Put out to public tender any contract that needs to be filled, including the contract for managing the operations of the foundation. The current one ends in May.
All of this and more will not likely advance this slow-train plan. We still believe people who tell us $20 million is about one-fifth of what’s needed.
More than that, a world-class biking and hiking trail instead of any train traffic just seems like a better idea.
— Editorial by John Harding