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Letter: No decisive blow to rail on Island

Either missed or simply did not understand the business case put forward by the ICF

No decisive blow to rail on Island

Re: “Time to face facts for the Island Corridor”

Mr. Salmon has rendered the decision by the federal and provincial governments to return a portion of the Island rail corridor lands to the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation as likely to be the decisive blow to the concept of rail returning to the E&N Corridor.

Mr. Salmon would have readers believe the decision was about the effectiveness of rail on the island and argues modern rail on the island never made sense anyway. Clearly, he did not take the time to review the reports produced by the province that demonstrates very clearly just how effective a modern rail system would be on Vancouver Island. Those reports outlined how many cars and trucks would be removed from our island highways and the positive impact a modern rail system would have on our environment.

Interestingly, despite his role as the CVRD’s member representative to the Island Corridor Foundation, it would appear he either missed or simply did not understand the business case put forward by the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF). The business case succinctly laid out the very real need for a modern rail system on the island and the benefits it would deliver to its residents. Thankfully, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure did not miss those points:

“As a province, we must be thinking about this corridor in the context of today and its potential importance in the future. By the early 2030s, Vancouver Island will exceed one million residents and with that growth we need to consider the future value of the corridor for the movement of people and goods. And as we were reminded during the 2021 atmospheric river event, when the south Island was cut off from the rest of B.C. along the Malahat, we need to ensure we are more resilient to climate change,” said Minister Rob Fleming March 14, 2023.

There is recognition in that statement about the number of people and the amount of goods we will need to move on this island and a single-use trail is not going to get that done no matter how nice it would be to have a trail. A trail will not remove cars from highways or get our goods to where they need to go. Providing efficient, cost-effective, and environmental transportation is a goal we should all support.

No, this decision was never about the effectiveness or viability of a restored rail service on the island. The province and the feds made clear this was about recognition of the rights and perspectives of the First Nations along the corridor and that those perspectives must be part of reconciliation:

“The Province also firmly believes that any potential future use of the corridor, whether it involves rail restoration or not, must involve First Nations participation and perspectives. Consideration for how the Island rail corridor might be used in the future, and commitment to reconciliation, are inseparable,” said Fleming March 14, 2023.

If there is any doubt as to the commitment of the province one only needs to look at the $18 million investment they have made to give the First Nations, regional districts, and the Island Corridor Foundation the necessary resources for future corridor planning. The funding documents are public, and I would suggest Mr. Salmon take the time to read them.

So, no Mr. Salmon, there has been no decisive blow to the potential for rail on Vancouver Island.

Paul Robinson