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Five years after BC Rail sale, NDP wants details released

VANCOUVER - Five years after ownership of BC Rail was transferred to CN Rail for $1 billion in the province's largest-ever privatization, the BC NDP is demanding that the BC Liberal government release the full text of the deal.

They also want to know whether CN has any plans to begin abandoning rail lines that it guaranteed would continue running until today.

July 14 marks the 5th anniversary of the BC Rail deal being implemented, following the announcement of its privatization sale to CN on November 25, 2003.

"This whole deal is tainted with scandal, tainted by a corruption trial," NDP MLA Leonard Krog told a news conference in Vancouver Tuesday morning.

Krog says that after five years, CN is now allowed to abandon rail lines previously run by BC Rail, which it had guaranteed to continue operating for a five-year term.

"I want to know what communities are impacted. I want to know CN's plans," Krog said. "If rail lines are abandoned the consequences could be devastating. Those communities deserve to know if they're on the hit list."

The full BC Rail deal agreement has never been released except in a highly-censored version first obtained in August 2004 in response to an NDP Freedom Of Information request. The text not severed shows that CN can stop service to portions of the rail line five years after the agreement was ratified on July 14, 2004.

Krog said Premier Gordon Campbell should release the full text and let the public know what might happen with the former BC Rail lines, but instead is more concerned with "ducking responsibility for the BC Rail corruption trial of former B.C. government aides David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi.

“If Gordon Campbell really cared about transparency, he would release the full B.C. Rail contract. Instead, his government continues to stonewall and refuses to answer even the most basic questions about the impact of this scandal for British Columbians,” said Krog.

When I asked if the NDP will request that CN release the full details if the BC Liberal government doesn't, Krog responded: "Excellent suggestion."

"But it's the premier's obligation to disclose this, not CN's - they're the purchaser," Krog added.

And in response to another question I posed - whether the NDP would consider suggestions by BC Rail deal bloggers that the party pursue a legal injunction to block the deal - Krog said it would be extremely difficult and expensive.

"You would have to have legal standing for an injunction. There would be a separate hearing, you would have to hire legal counsel," he said.

"The opposition is not in a position from a legal or financial aspect to bring about a private action," Krog concluded.

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in Vancouver 24 hours. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog at billtieleman.blogspot.com.

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