E&N rail-line group says it has confidence in its CEO

The Island Corridor Foundation has complete confidence in its CEO and has already addressed many of the issues raised by a consultant’s report including opening its annual general meeting to the public, says co-chairwoman Judith Sayers.

In the report, aKd Resource Consultants principal Kelly Daniels said the foundation’s credibility is suffering from a lack of transparency and it should do more business in public if it hopes to regain the trust of its members and the public.

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The report, prepared for the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities said much of that distrust stems from CEO Graham Bruce, who was described as “a lightning rod” for discontent among some municipal politicians.

The foundation owns the E&N Rail Line Corridor. Its goal has been to restore passenger rail service on the E&N line, which runs between Victoria and Courtenay. Passenger service was halted in March 2011 because of safety concerns arising from inadequate track upkeep.

Daniels said he interviewed 40 people in the course of preparing his report, including representatives from the five regional districts that are members of the foundation, the province and the foundation itself.

Although it endorsed many of the aKd recommendations, the foundation said it found some “glaring” gaps in the aKd report.

It would have been helpful, Sayers said, if the people Daniels interviewed had been identified so the foundation had an idea of who was saying what.

“We still don’t understand what the main issues were,” Sayers said. “They were supposed to do a high-level governance and financial review, which was all fine but, you know, we never really got the background of what was the concerns of the 40 people that were interviewed.”

“We don’t know whether one person said what was in the report or two, or what came from where. It just leaves us wondering what were the main reasons behind that [Langford] motion” to undertake the review.

Langford Mayor Stew Young called the foundation’s response “smoke and mirrors.” He said he can no longer support a train on the E&N line until he sees a business case.

“What I’d like to know from them is when is the train going to run and what’s the cost per person in the seat,” Young said.

“We’ve spent all these millions of dollars over the last five years and they haven’t answered that question.”

After a special meeting to review Daniels’ report, the foundation issued a statement saying it will implement a number of the recommendations “to improve communication among stakeholders” and that it has “complete confidence in [Bruce’s] ability to manage the daily affairs of the foundation.

The foundation also levelled criticism, noting that even though he was tasked with undertaking a high-level financial review, Daniels did not speak with the foundation’s financial officer or auditors and even though he was supposed to review bylaws and system structure, he never consulted with the foundation corporate solicitor.

“Another glaring omission is the fact the rail operator, Southern Rail, was not consulted,” the foundation said. “It is absolutely imperative the ICF have a rail operator. The rail company’s input concerning rail sustainability and their relationship with the ICF would have offered an important perspective that has been left out.”

While the foundation endorsed allowing the public to attend the annual general meeting, it said a recommendation to allow public attendance for at least a portion of regular meetings isn’t practical and no one has asked to attend.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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