Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Ghost of BC Rail pushes another CN train off the rails - yesterday in Quesnel
CN PROBES 10-CAR TRAIN DERAILMENT
Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2007
QUESNEL - Canadian National is investigating the cause of a 10-car train derailment in a Quesnel works yard Tuesday evening.
CN spokeswoman Kelli Svendsen said the lumber cars were empty when they derailed during a routine switching operation at about 6:15 p.m. There were no injuries or dangerous goods involved.
The derailment occurred two weeks after a fiery crash between two CN trains in Prince George Aug. 4.
© The Vancouver Sun 2007
Wasn't that a perfect demonstration of the spin which goes: "Just move along folks, nuthin' going on here ... don't give us any trouble, just move along please." Now see how Kelli the CN Spokeslady turns out in a Province report:
The Province; News Services
Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2007
A train derailment in Quesnel caused traffic chaos last night.
Kelli Svendsen of CN said the 10-car derailment occurred at 6:15 p.m. in the downtown switching yard.
The lumber cars were empty and there were no injuries but a major intersection was closed for hours.
© The Vancouver Province 2007
Now, please help me with this. The railroad tracks cross Highway 97 within the city limits of Quesnel, right? Just there beside the lumber yards, right? So is this "the downtown switching yard" Kelli speaks of?? And so is Hwy 97, by any chance, possibly now "re-designated" as a CN rail yard?? Just asking. - BC Mary.
Peter Ewart from Opinion 250, Prince George, writes:
... I have talked to a couple of people about the CN "rail yard" issue and have gotten different answers.
For example, I talked with one source who said that, before CN's takeover, the area of track in question had belonged to BC Rail. In his opinion, the piece of track in question was still part of the mainline and not part of CN's railyard.
But Ben and Elaine Meisner, who are the editor and publisher of Opinion250, have written extensively on the CN spill issue (the articles in Opinion250 were written by them not me).
I talked to Ben and he said that the track where the Prince George spill took place has, indeed, been designated as being part of CN's switching yard.
A second line has been put in place there, and CN uses it for switching cars.
However, from his understanding, this area of the track is still under the BC Rail lease agreement, i.e., the rail bed there is leased by CN from the province even though it is designated as being part of CN's rail yard. This arrangement must have been made in the original contract.
I think that Ben is most probably right on this issue. However, I have a call into someone from the local provincial Ministry of Transportation, and hope to hear back from them soon. When that happens, I will email any further information off to you.
The big problem that exists here is that we don't have access to the BC Rail / CN contract. Thus, it is hard to find objective proof as to who owns / leases what property. In the absence of the contract, the only way to put the government on the spot as to the designation of the rail track in question may be for questions in the Legislature to be asked...
All the best.
So, of course I pointed to the Hansard segment from 2004 in which Joy MacPhail nails Kevin Falcon over and over, for having admitted in the Legislature corridor to a $1. sale of the old BC Railbed to CN. "Is it true?" she asks. See The Legislature Raids for 10 August 2007; the story is titled "Was a 4-mile section of BC. Rail track "re-defined" ...? And at the end of that story is the Hansard record of MacPhail vs Falcon on this topic, contributed by Lynx.
All of these events are just the universe pitching in to help at the right time - the stench grows by the day on the BC Rail double dealing.
Thanks for these posts.
My question is: What's it going to be Falcon? Federal or Provincial? Quit riding the fence.
J. MacPhail: The minister, the last time we discussed this, said that he'd paid $600,000 to real estate advisers to sort out all of the titles - thousands of them, there were. I assume he's got all those titles sorted out now, and I assume that he's very clear on what lands could become discontinued lands. Could a railbed be a discontinued land?
Hon. K. Falcon: I'm trying to explain this in a way that hopefully is even clearer than what I thought I'd already done. CN has the right to occupy and use the leased lands for railway purposes only. If they don't exercise that right, they can choose to go through operational discontinuance, which is the process that I outlined in my previous answer.
I'm not even sure, to be candid, that I understand the nature of the member's question regarding railbed and rights-of-way, because operating on a railbed and right-of-way is. They're the same thing. They're essentially the same thing. If you're operating on a railbed, it's also the right-of-way.
J. MacPhail: The right-of-way is bigger than the railbed.
J. MacPhail: Yeah, it is the same corridor, but they're different sizes of land.
What is so difficult about answering a question? Does discontinued land include railbed? I assume the minister is saying it does include railbed. I assume the minister is saying discontinued land includes right-of-way. Is that correct? Is that what he's saying?
Hon. K. Falcon: If I'm understanding the member's question, yes.
J. MacPhail: Okay. So we have an agreement now that allows for the sale of the right-of-way and railbed. How does that jibe with the Premier saying that he wasn't going to sell the right-of-way and the railbed? I guess it doesn't. I guess the minister is going to stand up and say: "Oh, but it's our option whether to sell it or not." Yeah, but it's still an option to sell. It's an option to sell for $1. Then the minister, as an explanation of why they actually are saying something different than that the railbed and the rights-of-way aren't up for sale. They're explaining the fact that they're up for sale because they may have to force CN to buy it for a buck to fix a tunnel or to fix something if they've polluted.
Rolling stock is for sale lock, stock and barrel, lock, rolling stock and barrel. That's for sale. That's gone. Right-of-way and railbed can be sold for a buck. It's the government's option to sell it. The Premier didn't say: "Don't worry. It's staying in public ownership unless we decide to sell it. Then there are very clear terms of how we have to sell it, and we have to give it away for a buck to CN."
later in the debate...
J. MacPhail: Well, isn't that interesting? You have the Premier saying: "Don't worry. B.C. Rail's not sold, because we're not selling the rights-of-way or the railbeds." Then you have an agreement that gets leaked and that says: "Oh yeah, we could sell the right-of-way or the railbed. By the way, we're going to sell it for a buck." All of that process could kick in after five years and the government then saying: "Well, we need to have that right to do it in case there's some environmental damage or a tunnel's going to fall down." But oh, we don't have any process in place for actually determining how discontinued lands are parcelled. We don't have any process.
Wow, that's good government. That's really good business management. First of all, it puts to the lie completely the Premier saying that the right-of-way and the railbeds can't be sold. He's promising they will be sold under certain circumstances. In fact, the minister goes out of his way to say: "We may have to force a sale if CN is bad and pollutes. But oh, by the way, we don't have any process in the agreement to determine how that is going to occur." Interesting.
And the minister says it's always been thus. Well, yeah, except that this government, every day, stands up and says: "We not going to sell the railbed and the right-of-way." Every day they stand up. They somehow think people believe them, but as I like to say when I talk about this government, we're not idiots. Let's just put to the test what would be the test the minister would put in place to force a sale if CN pollutes.
Actually, Madam Chair, this is quite a lengthy discussion. I've got to read into the record about three or four pages of dialogue between the Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection and myself and between the Minister of Sustainable Resource Management and myself about this very issue. On April 27, I had a debate with the minister on this. It was very interesting. And I had a debate with the Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection. I'm trying to figure out the date. I'll get the exact date for that.
Anyway, Madam Chair, that's going to be a rather lengthy. Oh, that was April 19. I'm sorry. On April 19, I debated this very issue with the Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection. Then on Thursday, April 29, I debated it with the Minister of Sustainable Resource Management. Very interesting, what they had to say about who's responsible for cleanup.
J. MacPhail: Madam Chair, I expect this will be the last area that I'm going to explore on B.C. Rail. Then I want to move to B.C. Ferries, but I'm at the wishes of the government members about what they wish to explore after that.
We were talking about discontinued lands before the break the government's admission that they will sell lands that could be right-of-way and railbed. The minister I've heard his explanations over and over again: "Oh my God, this is to protect the public interest. We need to be able to force the sale of a discontinued land, because who knows? CN could have a spill and could pollute." I thought, well, I've been around for these three years of this government, and did they change the law? I mean, they've done a lot of backtracking on environmental legislation, but I don't recall them changing the Waste Management Act from what the previous administration put into place.
I pursued with various ministers a series of questions. I want to just outline them in terms of exploring the Minister of Transportation's explanation of why they would have to sell B.C. railbed or B.C. Rail right-of-way for a buck. This minister, the Minister of Transportation, said on April 27 that the $1 discontinued lands clause was there for issues relating to environmental cleanup. I have the attached excerpt from Hansard for the minister's edification.
Here's what he said:
"The reason why a clause like this is in place is to actually protect the public interest. When that clause isn't there, what happens down the road is that suddenly the public finds themselves in a position where they're being stuck with enormous costs. What this does is make sure the public interest is protected. That's exactly why it's there at the sole discretion of government."
That's the end of the quote.
The Minister of Transportation stated that the discontinued lands $1 sale clause was there to avoid the possibility that the taxpayer would be on the hook to pay for environmental cleanup costs. He did it again today. The ministers who are actually responsible for the area of environmental cleanup tell a very different story. All of this is in Hansard, and I'm going to quote from Hansard. On April 19 of this year I asked the Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection.
Me: "As I understand it, a contaminated site cannot be sold and the seller abandon his or her responsibility for cleanup. That is a joint and several liability. A sale doesn't negate or do away with the obligation to clean up the contaminated site. Have I got the basic understanding of the law?"
The Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection: "The owner, by selling the property, doesn't negate his liability in the property." In this case, the owner would be the government. It's Crown land. So the government isn't off the hook by a sale.
Even the new Environmental Management Act, which is currently being implemented, will not see a change in the issue of liability on contaminated sites. I asked the Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection if anything was going to change in the future in this matter.
Me: "Will the minister guarantee that his government is not going to change the premise that selling land releases the seller from his or her obligation to clean up a contaminated site?"
The Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection: "At this point in time, it is not the government's intention that a mere sale of the land would actually release you from your obligations to look after the land."
Again, the owner of the land here is the government. I thought, well, that doesn't jibe with what the minister is saying, because the obligation is with the government, the owner of the Crown land, no matter. Then I went and consulted Bill 57, the Environmental Management Act, which was passed last year. True to what the Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection said, it says exactly the same thing. I'm quoting from Bill 57:
"Division 3 � Liability for Remediation
"Persons responsible for remediation of contaminated sites
"45 (1) Subject to section 46 [persons not responsible for remediation], the following persons are responsible for remediation of a contaminated site: (a) a current owner or operator of the site; (b) a previous owner or operator of the site."
Hmm. So the government's own law says they're liable, sale or not.
The Minister of Sustainable Resource Management also confirmed that the sale of discontinued lands has no bearing on the issue of environmental cleanup. I asked the Minister of Sustainable Resource Management what laws apply to the cleanup of Crown land. This was last Thursday, April 29. He, too, confirmed that the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection oversees this responsibility.
The Minister of Sustainable Resource Management: "On a railway right-of-way, if there were a spill, the railway company that was operating on the line would have the responsibility through the requirements of the Waste Management Act of Water, Land and Air Protection." I think he meant that Water, Land and Air Protection was responsible for the administration of the Waste Management Act.
"The Waste Management Act and the Environmental Management Act apply to both private and Crown land. Both the seller and the buyer have responsibility for cleanup. A sale and change in ownership does not affect that at all. There is absolutely no justification for the government's ruse that they need to force a sale on CN in order to have polluted lands or environmentally contaminated lands cleaned up. That excuse for the sale of discontinued lands for $1 is completely invalid."