Sale of B.C. Rail in News Again
John van Dongen, an independent MLA in B.C. has, “asked B.C.’s conflict-of-interest commissioner to determine whether Premier Christy Clark broke the law in 2003 during her government’s privatization of B.C. Rail” (Edmonton Journal). Van Dongen has released information which may show that while Clark was Deputy Premier and Education Minister in 2003, she participated in Cabinet meetings on the sale of B.C. Rail to Canadian National Railway while her then husband and her brother were involved with the bidding process. Depending on the facts and the outcome of any investigations, this is possibly a violation of the B.C. Members’ Conflict of Interest Act.
There are undoubtedly many people who are not pleased the controversial sale of B.C. Rail to CN has once again reared its ugly head. B.C. Rail and its predecessors were owned by the public as a B.C. Crown Corporation from 1918 to 2004, and was the third largest railway in Canada. In 2004, the B.C. Government “leased” operations of the railway to CN for 990 years – which many have characterized as a sale – amid significant controversy (see this B.C. Rail link and this B.C. Legislature Raids [Railgate] link). At the time, questions were raised about the propriety of the sale and the conduct of various politicians, government officials and consultants.
As part of RCMP investigations, there were allegations of bribery, including money and the offer of potential employment in return for confidential government information. Among the many irregularities that surfaced during court proceedings, bidders other than CN withdrew their bids because CN was accused of having access to secret government information, including confidential information on their own corporate operations. The bidding process was accused of being “rigged”. Since the sale, Canadian National Railway has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the B.C. Liberal Party.
Controversy over CN’s management of the line they bought from the B.C. Government has focused on layoffs, toxic spills and other safety concerns, and cuts to service to some regions.