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1/20/2004



Rail News: Labor

BC Rail union calls for audit of province's CN agreement


The Council of Trade Unions on BC Rail is urging the provincial government to audit British Columbia's BC Rail Ltd. privatization agreement with Canadian National Railway Co. because of "irregularities" throughout the bidding process.

"Both of the two losing bidders say the BC Rail privatization process was unfair to them," said union Chairman Bob Sharpe in a prepared statement. "Many key parts of the deal are secret. This all cries out for a full and public audit."

Auditor General Wayne Strelioff believes provincial budget cuts are limiting his office's ability to examine British Columbia's privatization deals.

"[The province] has an obligation to the people of British Columbia to ensure that the auditor general’s office has the funding necessary to conduct a full audit of the BC Rail privatization deal," said Sharpe. "Surely with a billion-dollar deal, the province can find a tiny fraction of that amount of money to do a full and independent audit — doing anything less than that will lead people to rightly conclude that there are strong reasons why the government does not want the sale of BC Rail examined thoroughly."

In November, the province and CN entered into a "BC Rail Investment Partnership" under which the Class I would pay British Columbia $768 million in cash to acquire the 1,400-mile regional’s outstanding shares and the right to operate over BC Rail’s roadbed under a long-term lease. The regional's rail bed would remain in public hands, with CN assuming responsibility for rail transportation and infrastructure maintenance.

Subject to Canada Competition Bureau approval, the transaction is expected to close during the first quarter.


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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