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VIA Rail Canada Inc. Chairman Paul Smith will step down from the passenger railroad's board Aug. 31, he announced yesterday.Smith joined the board in 2006. Soon after, he became chairman of the board's Planning and Finance Committee. He also has served on the board's Audit and Risk Committee, and Investment Committee."Like most people who have worked with him, I'm saddened by Mr. Smith's departure," said VIA Rail President and Chief Executive Officer Yves Desjardins-Siciliano in a press release. "His commitment to our corporation, his dedication to public service, his energy, his integrity and his business acumen were of significant value."Vice Chairman Eric Stefanson will assume Smith's responsibilities until the Canadian government designates a new chairman. Smith said he believes it's crucial that Canada continue to encourage VIA Rail's development and support initiatives that will improve train frequency and reliability. Since 2007, the government has invested $1 billion (in Canadian dollars) to modernize the railroad's equipment and infrastructure."Traveling by train is an enjoyable and safe way to travel from coast to coast for more than 4 million people every year. It is also the only mode of transport for many remote communities in Canada," Smith said.