Sunday, July 11, 2010

 

In 2004, BC Rail oceanfront lands were sold for $3.

.

So long, BC Rail

An editorial opinion by Squamish Chief
July 9, 2010


“Good fences make good neighbours” so they say. Maybe that’s what BC Rail Properties had in mind when the Crown corporation erected a chain link fence last winter around the so-called Squamish triangle, the land they owned along the Mamquam Blind Channel – we’re told they had their back up at the time.

The fence can now stand as a symbol of the deteriorated relationship between the Crown corporation and the town it helped build.

This week the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure took over the remnants of BC Rail’s assets, finally ending a partnership with Squamish that has seen its share of mutual gain and power struggles.

The Crown corporation was introduced into Squamish under the name Pacific Great Eastern Railway in 1913. And this spring it left as BC Rail, without fanfare.

It seems a somewhat sad ending to a legacy that included great prosperity for Squamish. Most significantly, BC Rail connected Squamish to northern B.C. and the Lower Mainland, and employed thousands of locals over several generations.

The railway formed part of Squamish’s identity – it’s the reason we have the West Coast Railway Heritage Park.

It was also the purveyor of Squamish oceanfront lands when, in October 2004, the municipality purchased the land from BC Rail for $3.

But there were also feuds between local government and BC Rail executives creating bitterness that seemed to permeate the relationship.
 
One such struggle was over a land swap along the Mamquam Blind Channel that would see the railway’s right of way exchanged for a piece of Loggers Lane, allowing for a deeper setback from the Mamquam Blind Channel and thus, waterfront development.

But for years, the two sides could not agree to terms, and a deadlock ensued until a mayor that seemed much more friendly toward the corporation came in and sealed the deal.

Former Mayor Ian Sutherland’s coziness with BC Rail was made apparent when the decision to sell its railway operation went public.

Sutherland was part of a committee that included mayors of affected communities throughout the province formed to discuss BC Rail’s options, and he did not add his voice to those of the leaders who angrily opposed the sale.

No one could have predicted the can of worms that would open when BC Rail was sold to CN Rail – certainly not the B.C. Liberals, two of whose government aides were the subject of the now infamous “Raid on the Legislature” after allegations of fraud, breach of trust and corruption were levelled. The trial to prove those allegations is currently in progress.
Squamish made its way into that scandal when a wiretap caught high-ranking political officials deciding to ask Sutherland to participate in alleged media manipulation related to the sale.

“I wanted to have the mayor of Squamish, who’s a good friend of ours, rip Barb Sharp a new a**hole. Is that okay?” asked then-government aide Dave Basi.

“Absolutely,” said then-Finance Minister Gary Collins.

For the record, Sutherland responded by saying he doesn’t remember being asked to participate in media manipulation, would not have participated had he been asked.

After so much strife in just one of its many communities, it’s no wonder the name BC Rail is being swept away. It just seems a shame that after so many decades influencing B.C. and Squamish’s history, that name is disappearing not with a bang, but a whimper.

– Sylvie Paillard

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A tip of the old toque to Sylvie Paillard of the Squamish Chief for a clear-sighted appraisal of the damage done.  - BC Mary 

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Comments:
This angle is mentioned last year, here:

http://lailayuile.wordpress.com/2009/06/29/the-key-to-the-bc-rail-sale-lays-in-premier-gordon-campbells-beginnings-in-real-estate-and-land-development/
 
“I wanted to have the mayor of Squamish, who’s a good friend of ours, rip Barb Sharp a new a**hole. Is that okay?” asked then-government aide Dave Basi.

“Absolutely,” said then-Finance Minister Gary Collins.

For the record, Sutherland responded by saying he doesn’t remember being asked to participate in media manipulation, would not have participated had he been asked.
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Some may ask why "rip Barb Sharp a new a**hole"

Read
City of North Vancouver Meets with CN Rail Officials Regarding Recent Sale of BC Rail. Council Vows to Oppose the Sale
Date
December 2, 2003

........Further to the meeting with CN Rail officials, City Council has adopted a resolution to reiterate its opposition to the sale of BC Rail and call for a full public disclosure of all documents held by the Province of British Columbia with regards to the sale of BC Rail to CN Rail. Council has also resolved to contact all North Shore MLA’s urging them to vote against the sale.
http://www.cnv.org/c//DATA/1/100/2003%2012%2002%20-%20CITY%20OF%20NORTH%20VANCOUVER%20MEETS%20WITH%20CN%20RAIL%20OFFICIALS%20REGARDING%20RECENT%20SALE%20OF%20BC%20RAIL.PDF
 
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