Regional District of Nanaimo pulls tax money for Island rail repairs

NANAIMO – Two city council members disappointed at a Regional District of Nanaimo decision to pull tax money for Island Corridor Foundation.

A majority of Regional District of Nanaimo directors voted Oct. 4 to return tax money collected for the Island Corridor Foundation.

A majority of Regional District of Nanaimo directors voted Oct. 4 to return tax money collected for the Island Corridor Foundation.

Two Nanaimo city council members are expressing disappointment at a Regional District of Nanaimo board decision to pull tax money collected for Island rail repairs.

The regional district board approved a motion Tuesday night to pull $799,000 in tax money collected for the Island Corridor Foundation, a non-profit established to preserve Island rail. The money was slated to be released to the foundation upon confirmation of federal money for track upgrades and repairs. A lawsuit between Snaw-Naw-As First Nation and the Canadian attorney general and foundation has put that on hold, said Bill McKay, Nanaimo mayor, regional director and foundation board vice-chairman.

McKay and Diane Brennan, who was subbing for regular Nanaimo director Wendy Pratt, were the only two members at the table voicing dissent.

Brennan said it was a mistake to write off the train to Victoria and said the decision could have an effect on the City of Nanaimo.

“If that’s what the core review said and if we see the intention of the seven members of council sitting on the RDN, it’s inescapable, that they would vote the same way,” said Brennan.

Board members have expressed loss of confidence in the foundation, but McKay said information is readily available on the foundation website.

Ian Thorpe, Nanaimo councillor and director, supported the motion and while he isn’t against rail on the Island, he said it’s been frustrating dealing with the foundation.

“There may be information on the website and I have looked at their website, but we have directly asked them for communication, we’ve asked them for a business plan and we have not received it,” said Thorpe.

McKay said the decision was premature, adding there are ongoing discussions between all of the parties involved in the lawsuit on possible remedies.

“The project is far from dead, so I’m concerned the board’s made a decision to give back the money before a decision’s been made on the project,” said McKay.

A City of Nanaimo core services review suggested not renewing assistance to the rail foundation in light of the Regional District of Nanaimo’s earlier decision to claw back funding. The potential annual savings for the city would be $121,000.