Stop BC Rail sale until CN deal is cleared of criminal allegations, Canadian labor federation says (3/5/2004)


British Columbia and Canadian officials should halt the sale of BC Rail Ltd. to Canadian National Railway Co. because of recent allegations that the finance and transportation ministers office breached the public's trust during the transaction's bidding process, said B.C. Federation of Labor President Jim Sinclair in a prepared statement.

"Until the public is fully satisfied there were no criminal activities involving BC Rail, the sale must be stopped," he said, referring to a police search recently conducted at the Liberal Finance and Transportation Ministers office that uncovered questionable documents tied to the BC Rail bidding process.

The allegations cloud Finance Minister Gary Collins' office, where "a breach of trust may have occurred under his watch," said Sinclair. "To preserve the integrity of his office, Collins must step aside until this matter is resolved."

The allegations also confirm concerns voiced by several parties during the bidding process, he said. In October, the province chose CN's bid over competing proposals from Canadian Pacific Railway and a Burlington Northern Santa Fe/OmniTRAX Inc. partnership.

"All along, the government has conducted secret negotiations and closed door meetings to keep details away from the public," said Sinclair. "Now, there are clouds of criminal activity and potential criminal breach of trust hanging over this deal."

The federation plans to continue its campaign to stop the sale, which is supported by the Council of Trade Unions On BC Rail. Federation and union officials expect to address the Canada Competition Bureau when the agency considers CN's purchase of the 1,400-mile regional.

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 railroad'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.

Source: Progressive Railroading Daily News