Nanaimo Regional District decides on passenger rail funding

NANAIMO – Regional district directors set to vote on a Vancouver Island passenger rail service-related agreement Tuesday (July 22).

Regional District of Nanaimo board directors are scheduled to vote on motions related to passenger rail service in Nanaimo at its regular meeting Tuesday (July 22).

Directors will vote on whether to carry out a contribution agreement with the Island Corridor Foundation and whether to direct district staff to designate $68,000 of provincial 2014 Strategic Community Investment Fund grant money to the agreement, which would see the tax requisition lessened for 2015.

The board agreed in 2012 to provide approximately $945,000 – two payments of $472,500 in 2013 and 2014 – to the foundation, based on $2 million in funding to be shared among four other regional districts on Vancouver Island.

None of the money has been paid yet with the 2013 portion, which was requisitioned through taxes, sitting in reserve. The Nanaimo regional district voted to put off the 2014 contribution until 2015 during budget discussions because a passenger rail deal between the foundation, Southern Railway of B.C. and Via Rail had not been reached at the time.

Representatives from Via, Southern Rail and the foundation confirmed that a deal is done and only needs ratification from their boards. While the Nanaimo regional district appears to be moving ahead, the money will not be doled out until certain conditions are met, such as a signed agreement with Via Rail and other regional districts must take part in funding, according to Paul Thorkelsson, Regional District of Nanaimo chief administrative officer.

A copy of the agreement will need to be provided to Thorkelsson for board inspection as well.

“No money will be released until the ICF goes through their tendering process [for infrastructure repairs], so they’re going to have to do their tendering process that will confirm the project and when they’re prepared to move forward with construction, they’ll request the funds from the various parties including, I assume, the province and federal government, on the larger portion of the money,” Thorkelsson said.

Graham Bruce, corridor foundation CEO, said the boards will ratify in the next four to five weeks but wouldn’t comment on specifics.

Mylene Belanger, Via spokeswoman, said the rail company’s board of directors are set to discuss the issue at a meeting at the end of August and Singh Biln, Southern Railway of B.C. spokesman, said its board would do likewise sometime in August.