Monday, April 06, 2009
North to Alaska ... by rail. Even then.
North Van's Grumps deserves a heap of praise for finding this transcript from a Ben Meisner radio interview circa 2004. I can access the transcript only by Googling meisner + nettleton + basi, which is where I picked up on this segment. The URL doesn't work for me, but it may be a help to others who understand these things. - BC Mary.
Page 2 ...
[Ben] Meisner [longtime media person in Prince George]: Go ahead, please.
Caller: Paul ... do you think we even have a chance of trying to bring B.C. Rail back to the public?
The corporations, of course, are in there, immersed mentally in this, and the deal may be done by spring and this thing will still be happening. Is there anything that can be done to stop this while the investigation is going on?
Meisner: Have you got that, Paul? You can't hear.
[Paul] Nettleton [former BC Liberal MLA for Prince George - Omineca]: No, I couldn't hear a word that was said.
Meisner: She's talking about can anything be done to stop the sale of B.C. Rail, given that the enabling legislation is likely to come down this spring.
Nettleton: Oh. Well, good question. In fact, enabling legislation has been passed. It was passed at the end of the fall sitting of the Legislature . So the legislation is done. But the deal isn't done. When the announcement was made, in fact, at the Empress Hotel here in Victoria some weeks ago, with much fanfare, they talked about possibly inking the deal some time in the spring.There has been some speculation, in fact, that if there are irregularities somehow attached or associated with the police raid here in Victoria and elsewhere with B.C. Rail, that, in fact, that may have some impact on the deal. I'm probably less optimistic in terms of the deal being nixed by this investigation than some, but the deal hasn't been officially inked, so you raise an interesting point and an interesting question. There's more questions, unfortunately, than there are answers. So we're all very anxious to leam exactly what the link is with [the raid on the Legislature and] B.C. Rail and, as you point out, what are the practical implications in terms of the finalization of the deal.
Meisner: But it's highly unlikely, caller, that the deal would not go through as set, because CN then could jump all over them and say: hey listen,. I'm going to sue the hell out of you. I hear where you're coming from. You know, we're getting into the high end, and then what they can say is: listen, if there was some ... if.there was some.... This is only.... There's no accusation. It's just being purely supposition, of saying if there was some suggestion that some information was sold or peddled to somebodyelse that was not supposed to go there, was it sufficient to crack the deal. That would be another issue that would come up in the courts, and they could go ahead and sign it and say it didn't mean much anyway.
Caller: Yeah. Well, I have a feeling we're going to get screwed twice here, Ben.
Meisner: Go ahead, you're on the drive.
Caller: An interesting thing that I see, Paul, is that.... Is there any kind of federal approval required for the B.C. Rail-CN deal to finally....? Now, we have Herb Dhaliwal, who is now not running: He's suing a Vancouver paper for saying that he tried to blackmail Paul Martin into the fact that if he didn't get a cabinet position he was going to cause trouble in the ethnic community. He's suing the paper over that. Martin has admitted to having talks with ex-Premier Dosanjh and telling him that there would be a cabinet seat available to him, should he decide to run and win. The people directly responsible for wresting the riding association control away from Dhaliwal's supporters were Basi and Virk, who signed up thousands and thousands of supporters for their group.
Now, with Paul Martin.... And then there's the fact, of course, that GordonCampbell stated on this very program before the election, when I asked him, that no, they weren't being ran by the federal Liberals. They had very little connection, and he wasn't even sure what position Christy Clark's husband held, but he was sure it wasn't something that was really that important. Now it turns out that he's Paul Martin's main man.
So it seems to me that when you get the railroads and the provincial and federalgovernments, connected like that, and there's final approval needed somewhere, that maybe there is some hint of some collisions there somewhere. You can't say,
because, of course, that's speculation, but maybe this is the line that we should be following, and maybe this is the way that the sale of B.C. Rail will ultimately be blocked, if there's a federal approval required.
Meisner: There is. Transport connection must approve this sale, because it's a question of whether they have control. Paul, go ahead.Yeah, it's got to go to the federal authority. The federal regulatory authority has to deal with the matter. Go ahead, Paul. Have I got you, Paul?
Caller: Okay. That's it for now. That's an interesting thing that I think maybe you should be following up on just a bit more.
Meisner: So this woman is making a good point who said earlier: will that...? In the final analysis, what does it mean? What does it mean to the people of.. .for example, in terms of B.C. Rail, etc.?
Nettleton: Will it be important enough to bè blocked? No, not unless there is some kind of hint of some connection at the very, very highest level, in which case everything would be dropped, I think, and the process would be reinitiated. The reasons given would be that they wanted to show transparency and with all the hint of, you know, wrongdoing, that they didn't want the public to have that opinion. That would be the only way to cover their butts if there was anything at the highest end.
Meisner: Now, CN going to Alaska. The mayor is going up there very quickly to have a meeting up there in the Alaska Senate. What does that all mean? Does that mean, you know...? At least my sense is that CN isn't going to put a couple of...$3 or $4billion..
Nettleton: Oh no, they're not going to build a rail line to Alaska for us and turn it over to us. We're not going to own the rail bed. That's a question I asked way back when we were talking to Reíd when she was on, when Judith Reid was on. I said, you know: "For crying out loud, who's going to pay for this?" The obvious thing, that if B.C. Rail was unprofitable then nobody's going to want to do the deal ... If there is the potential of making the road through to Alaska [inaudible]
there was and when W.A.C Bennett if they had finished it through to Dease Lake.... Most of that rail bed is still there. You can fly along and look at it. You can see it across the valley when you're coming out towards Forty Mile Flat [with] Dease Lake.
Anyway, most of that rail bed is there, so it's... a lot of the cost and that stuff's been done.
If it is viable to do it, then why aren't we doing it as the owners, as the taxpayers, the shareholders in B.C. Rail and accruing the wealth, and the benefit [that] will [be] borne from it.
Meisner: Ah, you're with me on that, I'll tell you. You're with me on that. Myfeeling is I wouldn't want to enter into a public-private partnership with CN Rail as is suggested maybe that's the way we're going to go in the future, 'cause I have no interest in making them a lot of profit when we could have been making it
Nettleton: Also, the other thing is we're giving them control, tacit or otherwise, of the federa bureaucracy of the rail line, because CN's involved and they're a federal railroad. If it's provincial and we own it as taxpayers, we control[inaudible] period, end of story, environment and everything else.
Meisner: Thank you to Paul Nettleton for coming by.
But I also know, in seeing discussions about the Alaska Canada Railroad project http://alaskacanadarail.com/ and remembering ownership issues to do with the long-ago Collins Overland Telegraph, and modern ambitions about Supercorridors and the proposed Bering Strait Bridge, I remember that some issues raised about the overland link from the Lower 48 to Alaska had to do with US national sovereignty and security; it would NOT do to have a non-US company in ownership of that rail line; same as the rejection of Arab control of US port operations raising hackles. Worse, the intervening railbeds were owned by a socialist-type publicly-owned corporation...... Control of transportation infrastructure across foreign territory is a national security interest, much like the idea of the Danzig corridor, linking one German territory to the other across potentially-hostile Poland....likewise the Kennedy-forged access corridors to West Berlin. Such corridors are few in history, and they're always troublesome. That trouble is often, eventually, solved by fullscale annexation, almost a geopolitical axiom if there were more case-examples to demonstrate it....
Such a railway connection was foreseen by Dave Barrett, who took up WAC's cause re the Dease Lake Extension and as I recall undertook the Fort Nelson Extension, as being a way to keep oil tanker traffic from our coasts....but it's not just oil and resources that railways are for, they're for movement of materiele and people. Not that the US can't place all the armaments and military it wants in Alaska via air and the Alaska Highway and even by sea; rail is for many things, however, more reliable on overland transport, and also somewhat easier to mask shipments of...well, who knows what.
But I don't think it's so much a specific logistics need so much as the general issue of national ownership on such a key component of national security. In fact, we may see such an argument surface if the corruption swirling around Railgate starts moves towards reversing the sale, and some in the US will complain about being dealt with unfairly (even though the deal was clearly tainted in the first place).
There's more afoot about this than meets the eye, right from CN's first interest in the acquisition....a hard look at their ownership and their political ties in the US might reveal quite a bit about WHY they wanted to buy BC Rail, and WHY Campbell & Co. were so eager to help them.
Something else is going on; this isn't just about money......I'm not generally a grasping-at-straws conspiracy-oid, but the connect-the-dots nature of things like the SuperCorridor Coalition, NAWAPA's one-dam-at-a-time plans and others have me looking at this on a continental, even intercontinental scale.
This isn't just about BC. BC is only a square on the chessboard, and we've already been rooked.....what the endgame is, we're not in sight of yet, though.....
Very pleased to see you stepping up to the mic. Thanks for this.
My hopes are lifted: Can you fix the date when BC Rail's fate was first decided?
And if you can do that (not easy, I know) can you also fill in details of where the deal was discussed and who participated?
Does Savary Island figure in this scenario?
Folks I know have been working on this for quite a while.
I can't don't won't accept that giving away BCRail was ever an unavoidable deal. Do you see it as somehow unavoidable because of U.S. strength in getting whatever it wants?
I hope you comment again soon.
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This means of course that prior to 2008 the Board of Directors were accessing their discretionary allowance on a daily basie; they were exercising their lunch club memberhip; they were golfing, daily.... where did they ever find the time to sit down with Pat to discuss the Core Review....
As for the inevitability of the transfer of the railway into American hands, that's not quite what I meant; I meant that the "continentalist" strategy was at play, and that the US planners, private and public, see ownership of key transportation links between the 49th state and the first 48 as being of extremely high priority; the implication is that this was what was behind the rigged acquisition of BC Rail. During the Klondike Gold Rush, for example, Congress passed a bill giving control over shipping from one American port to another American port to American companies only; even though the ownership of Skagway, Haines and Dyea was clearly under dispute they were de facto in American hands and so shipping companies based in Vancouver and Victoria got the knockout punch, which also hurt the outfitting industry (btw most people don't know this but Jones Tent & Awning was one of the world's biggest manufacturers of tents and such, and part of the reason was the Klondike rush, though they had to ship stuff to Seattle to get it north).
Anyway the same Americanist idea applies to an Alaska rail link as did to the Inside Passage in the days of the Klondike, and which also underlay the bilateral nature of the construction/control of the Alaska Highway, although that was Army Corps of Engineers, not a private company and no title was transferred (other than the infamous/mythical giant airbase inside the Northern Rockies somewhere which ufologists sometimes rant about....).
It turned out to be SO MUCH EASIER this time around to put into power a government and Premier only interested in a firesale of all public assets and resources. Why conquer a country when you can simply BUY IT? This gets me back to my quasi-annexationist flag which I've raised from time to time - that we'd have more ability to control our own affairs, and to find out what our government's doing, if that government were based in Washington DC rather than Ottawa, and if we had the same FOI and freedom of speech and rights of review and public investigation that they do "down there". They already own us, and increasingly so; the only way to have any say in the game is by being a stakeholder, rather than mere property. And it would give us more influence/profile among THEM if that ever became the case. And Campbell - Campbell we could impeach, a mechanism we don't currently have available, no? And it wouldn't be a sealed courtroom and sealed evidence, it would be a congressional panel, that would be looking into Railgate...All theoretical (for now, though I still think the SEC should be apprised of the shadier side of the BC Rail acquisition - and who owned which stocks at the time...).
BC Rail may well come back into public hands as the scandal progresses and the sale is declared null and void by the Supreme Court (of Canada, since BC's is unlikely to do so). But the security issue will remain as far as the US is concerned; it may be resolved by bypassing the Dease Lake and Fort Nelson Extensions entirely; I note that in the map on the Alaska Canada Rail link page while they show those two options, they also show a line northwards from Hazelton, i.e. from existing CN track. Such a line could also conceivably service Wrangell and Juneau (with one hell of a lot of engineering...)....
Major rail expansion, and the New York-to-Moscow/Paris highspeed rail link that's mumbled about re the Bering Strait bridge proposal, is all quite unlikely in the relatively near future, though, as long as world credit markets are on the rope, and while the world economy reshapes itself in due course. And if such a railway simply means a cheaper way to inundate the North American market with Chinese manufactured goods while shipping North American resources out in bulk, it's not a very wise thing to do anyway....not that wisdom has anything to do with such plans. Vision and delusion are closely related phenomena....
Perhaps some here remember when someone (in the last couple years) was able to actually be more successful at obtaining information about lobbyists working on our government in Victoria by doing FOI requests down in Washington State - quicker, less blacked out stuff and probably even cheaper. Of course this only works for US outfits importuning our gang in Victoria, but we already know Gordo prefers to give stuff away to either friends or Americans (preferably both at the same time).