Nanaimo Regional District directors question if support is enough for railway

NANAIMO – Board asks for report from Ministry of Transportation on effectiveness of money given to Island Corridor Foundation.

Regional District of Nanaimo directors question if provincial and federal government money for E&N Railway repairs is adequate.

At their May 26 board meeting, directors voted to request the Ministry of Transportation provide a copy of a report on whether proposed government money to the Island Corridor Foundation, the non-profit organization which manages the line, is effective.

The project to return passenger train service to the Island is stalled, awaiting approval from provincial and federal governments.

There are commitments of $20.9 million for work, including $7.5 million from the provincial government, but some directors wonder if that amount is enough, taking into account factors such as inflation.

Bill McKay, Nanaimo mayor and regional district director, recently elected as foundation board chairman, said he believes it is enough.

“The amount of money that’s being given to the ICF is going to do the work that it needs to do, no doubt about it, but they’ve not gone out to tender yet,” said McKay.

He said the ministry is doing its due diligence with the consultant report.

“The ministry’s brought a second party in to review the work of the first party, because the work of the first party appeared to be in some dispute … they’re going to spend $7.5 million worth of taxpayers’ money and they don’t want to do it willy nilly.

“They want to make sure they have a proper business plan in place,” said McKay.

The board approved non-confidence-related motions against the foundation last year and McKay said he hopes to smooth relations, adding that directors have to stop relying on information from other sources.

“We have to look at the facts with respect to this project,” said McKay. “I’ve had directors tell me that they talked to a guy, who talked to a guy, who’s in the railway business in Vancouver and he believes them over the competent operators that we have here.”