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British Columbia to review BC Rail take-over proposals 'behind closed doors,' labor federation says


Today, the government of British Columbia expects to receive proposals from Canadian National Railway Co., Canadian Pacific Railway, RailAmerica Inc. and a Burlington Northern Santa Fe/OmniTRAX Inc. joint venture outlining plans on taking over BC Rail Ltd.'s operation and management.

The province's transportation ministry plans to hire an "independent fairness advisor" to review the bids and issue a recommendation.

But B.C. Federation of Labour is calling on the provincial government to release details contained in all four bids and let British Columbians — "the best judges of whether a deal is fair" — decide each proposal's merits.

"This government is feeling the heat about negotiating the sale of BC Rail behind closed doors," said federation President Jim Sinclair in a prepared statement. "But instead of opening those doors to allow the public to judge the merits of the deal, they invite another private company into the room to review the deal."

The independent adviser will only review the proposal of the selected bidder and release his/her report on the same day a deal is completed, Sinclair said.

"What use is a report on whether the sale was conducted fairly after the sale of BC Rail is complete?" he asks. "It is obvious … the only report the government will accept is a favorable one."

A provincial evaluation committee expects to choose a proposal in late September or October. British Columbia plans to finalize a public/private agreement by year end.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/15/2003