On Tuesday, April 8th, RDN Director Marc Lefebvre of Parksville will put forward a motion of non-confidence in the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) based on their “inability to negotiate an agreement with VIA Rail, and lack of information on how current taxpayers’ dollars and ICF revenues are being spent on necessary repairs.”
Via Rail President M. Laliberté said they won’t spend more than the $1.4 million annual subsidy it allocated to the Island route. In addition, they say they need a new station for Victoria and a new maintenance yard. The ICF has proposed to build a new Victoria station and move maintenance to Nanaimo, as long as Via Rail pledges $1.8 million to run their trains.
Via Rail isn’t budging and now communities on mid-Vancouver Island want to get their money back from reserve. Time is running out.
Via Rail, a Crown corporation, had a contract to run passenger trains along the former E&N railway. In 2011, Via Rail deemed the tracks, owned by ‘Southern Railway’ (a subsidiary of Washington Group, which also operates Seaspan), were too unsafe and withdrew its railcars from the Island.
In other areas of the country, Via Rail has cut service for similar reasons, including the Gaspé region of Quebec and a 70-kilometre line between Bathurst and Miramichi.
Over the last six years, Via Rail has been handed $2.3 billion from taxpayers in operating subsidies and capital grants. In 2012, Via Rail received $280 million from the Federal government; a seven percent increase from the previous year.
Via Rail says that it is not making money from these routes, but this is not true. According to their financial report, there were actuarial losses on defined benefit plans of $101.2 million for 2012, compared to $288.1 million for the year 2011. Why should taxpayers suffer because of their own mismanagement?
Speaking of management, the following travel, hospitality and conference expenses were submitted during 2012 for a total of $256,441:
- Paul G. Smith, Chairman of the Board – $7,983
- Marc Laliberté, President and CEO – $36,430
- Executive management committee members – $151,050
- Board of Directors members – $60,978
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s appointee to the board of Via Rail in 2007-08 was Conservative Senator Leo Housakos, who had taken an illegal donation from Lino Zambito, of Charbonneau fame.
Transportation infrastructure on Vancouver Island:
How long can people travel on the Island highway without paying tolls? With the proposed increase in truck traffic, carrying coal, or toxic soil up the Mallahat, improvements to our highways will have to be made.
Islanders are paying for ferries while people elsewhere in the province ride for free. Who would listen or care if we were soon forced to pay a toll on our Island highway?
The time is now for the federal government to spend on transportation infrastructure on Vancouver Island.