LETTER: The Vancouver Island Railway is not a constitutional obligation

Dear editor,

Recent letters supporting rail in the E&N corridor, when researched, may actually support the conversion of the line into a recreational trail for local use and tourism potential.

Trail proponents point out that rail is suitable for heavy freight and mass transit. Outside of the capital region for mass transit these conditions do not exist. Rail freight diminished and basically stopped by the end of the 20th century. The advent of a high-speed motorway from Victoria to Campbell River has superseded the rail as a land transport route. (https://bit.ly/2eI26Uw).

Is the E&N “in the Constitution?” Research took me about 30 seconds. Using Google, I queried ‘Constitution and E&N’. The first citation is: “British Columbia v. Canada: An Act respecting the Vancouver Island Railway” (report [1994] 2 SCR 41). The Supreme Court of Canada ruled the exact opposite. The ruling is in plain language. It states: “Canada does not owe a constitutional obligation to British Columbia in respect of the Victoria to Nanaimo Vancouver Island rail line.” (https://bit.ly/2EdCkAk).

The statutory evidence include: An 1886 Parliamentary Act reducing the curve radius in the Railway Act to allow the line to be constructed. In other words, it did not meet safety standards of 1886! A 1984 Commission report declared the passenger service was uneconomic. Dissenting opinion stressed that the corridor remain in the public domain for the general good.

Another letter used the Sydney to Brisbane rail corridor as a model. In Australia, this area is referred to as the GER. It is the industrial engine of Australia and home to 11 million people. Sounds more like southern Ontario.

In B.C., boosting tourism for communities are railtrails such as the KVR, the Sicamous to Armstrong railtrail, and the North Star trail (Kootenays). A Coastal Island Trail would become a global destination for recreational tourism.

Larry Cosman

Courtenay

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