Politicians are working behind the scenes to get Island passenger rail service rolling.
Poor track conditions sidelined Vancouver Island passenger trains in spring, 2011.
The Island Corridor Foundation submitted its proposal for a renewed service agreement in April, but talks remain stalled over costs. ICF wants a fixed, annual, $1.8-million funding commitment. Via wants to limit its funding to $1.4 million. With an additional $6-million infrastructure grant sought by ICF, Via said the Island-based organization actually seeks $3 million annually.
Provincial Transportation Minister Todd Stone recently said he'd support Islanders' push for a rail agreement. Then ICF executive director Graham Bruce said Lisa Raitt, the federal transportation minister promised him the same thing, during a private meeting in Nanaimo last month.
Bruce said Raitt was to meet with Via officials in mid-September, but if that did happen, not a word of the meeting has been breathed publicly.
Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder said the NDP transportation critic and deputy critic both met with Via officials to "present the importance of the case" to the Crown corporation.
"Of course Via didn't bring their chequebook but it's another stage," of lobbying, Crowder said.
She said more could be accomplished for passenger rail, not only here but in parts of eastern Canada, if parliament was back in session. New Democrats want to raise the issue with the parliamentary transportation committee.
"There is some urgency for this because Gaspe is in the same situation we are, except Via had rail temporarily continue, but it's lurching from crisis to crisis," Crowder said.
Nothing has been heard since a meeting Bruce said was to occur between Raitt and Via.
Bruce has not commented since then, and would not comment Tuesday.
Crowder said Raitt "has demonstrated in the past she is a reasonable person to work with, so we can only hope she will be more supportive than the previous minister, but she hasn't spoken publicly one way or the other. We need to hear from her."
Parliament resumes on Oct. 16.
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