What value carbon tax? What value E&N rail corridor?
Well, let’s see. If the carbon tax is designed to reduce carbon into the atmosphere one would believe that the funds collected from the carbon tax would be the ideal source to fund the restoration of the E&N railway. Why, you ask? The modern rail usage of the former E&N rail corridor would address environmental issues, economic issues and social issues. There is no better opportunity to move us forward, to get the Island’s economy back on track, to remove vehicles from our highways, reducing our carbon footprint, and get people back to socializing through train travel. Particularly under the current circumstances.
In January of 2018 Premier Horgan stated clearly and publicly that he wanted a decision soon on the future of the E&N corridor. What happened under his watch? Another assessment and another study after already seeing 10-plus done in the past.
So here’s my point, we have carbon tax money being collected from a number of sources adding up to hundreds of millions of dollars, to do what? Try to discourage us from using our cars etc.? Then why not put that money into a project that does exactly that. Upgrade the rail corridor to a modern rail service that includes a form of commuter service, intercity passenger services, freight services and not the least valuable, tourist train services. Start now, get our economy rolling and we will be ready to serve rail customers of all types before we even have a COVID-19 vaccine. I would even include the fact that there are over 100 kms of bike and walking paths along the corridor so the corridor is multi use.
Our friend Mr. Horgan, before this unnecessary election was called, announced a lower mainland project to extend the Broadway line in Vancouver 5.7 kilometres at a cost of $2.83 billion. That’s $496 million per kilometre. That’s right, $496 million per kilometre. The assessment for our Vancouver Island rail corridor came in at a low of $326 million to a gold plated system at $728 million. The Island corridor has pegged the cost of refurbishing the entire island rail corridor at $400 million which is less than the cost for one kilometre over on the mainland.
One argument I have often heard is population. The lower mainland’s population is 2.87 million. Vancouver Island’s population is now 879,000, one-sixth the population of the whole of B.C. Vancouver Island’s population will likely pass one million by the year 2025 based on the current growth. Don’t you think transportation dollars should be spent on the Island as much or more than the lower mainland? We have been left out of the mix for decades because all of our elected governments are constantly going after the lower mainland voters to retain their power. What is also difficult to swallow is the inability of individual candidates to state their own personal beliefs on this and other issues. They just defer to or state the party line. I would then ask, who do our MLAs, MPs or even local government officials really represent? You or their party?
Let’s make this happen. The 13 Island mayors are on side, a recent survey showed that 80 per cent of Vancouver Islanders believe the railway makes good sense to get up and running again, in a modern sense, of course. The restoration project itself would create 2,200 person-years employment and provide $147 million of employment income not to mention that 85 per cent of construction expenditures would be sourced from British Columbia companies. Ties alone would be sourced here on Vancouver Island and form a key part of the upgrade project.
Get on board.