Early Saturday, Double (notso)Secret Probation, Update: Weekend Wurlitzer Wind-Up piece titled 'RailBiz Relativity....We Are Family' is now up, here.
Late Friday Update: Weekend Wurlitzer Wind-Up is coming....Promise....Just going to be delayed a little due to circumstances beyond my control....In the meantime, there is an interesting conversation going on in the comment thread....
In his most recent Tyee column wherein he lays waste to the myth that BC Rail was a money-sucking albatross hanging from our collective necks, Will McMartin explains how the first edition of the Gordon Campbell/Martyn Brown government rapidly ran up faux debts in the hundreds of millions that no honest man could possibly pay.
Essentially it was a three-pronged strategy that involved:
#1 - Suddenly announcing massive write downs on failed mega-extensions long-ago initiated by Bennett the Elder and one of his Wild Kelowna Boys.
#2 - Imposing unexplained, and unexplainable, 'special charges' for 'restructuring'
#3 - Gutting programs that generated revenue, including passenger rail service.
In yesterday's post we mentioned how, in the Fall of 2002, the Campbell/Brown government removed the longstanding legal requirement for BC Rail to provide passenger service by changing a 90 year old statute under the stealthy subheading titled 'Miscellaneous'.
But, of course, to make it all publically palatable the Campbell/Brown surrogates had to get out there and start making stuff up about how much money BC Rail's passenger programs were losing, as is demonstrated in the following excerpt from Will McMartin's Tyee piece mentioned above:
.....(Judith) Reid, the (pre-RailGate) transportation minister, now claimed that BC Rail's passenger operations were losing "approximately $10 million a year," and added: "The cars that operate the service require refurbishment or replacement at a cost of approximately $30 million.".....
....Dave Chutter, (Campell/Brown government) MLA for Yale-Lillooet, attempted to buttress Reid's claim that passenger-rail was a money-loser, but his figures were much different than those from the minister. "The Cariboo Prospector [BC Rail's passenger service] has lost $4 million in each of the last three years," he exclaimed. "It has had a cumulative loss over the past five years of $21.66 million and has incurred an operating loss in every year since 1964."
(Those numbers are nowhere to be found in any of the company's annual reports.)....
Here is another report, from a PR/Biz fluff-piece from the time that helped paved the way for the privatization of the rail service along the 'allegedly' not-lucrative NorthVan to Whistler run:
.....BC Rail began its passenger service between Vancouver and Prince George, a lumber town in the central part of the province, in the early 1950s. But in recent years the route, which stops in Whistler, has been a money loser, said Alan Dever, a spokesman for the company, a Crown corporation.
The Cariboo Prospector, the main service, lost nearly $5-million in 2001, Mr. Dever said. A more expensive service catering specifically to tourists called Whistler Northwind, which only began operating in 2001, lost $2-million that year. BC Rail ended both services late last year after deciding the revenue they were bringing in did not justify the losses. According to Mr. Dever, regularly scheduled passenger trains anywhere in North America rarely make money.....
After the door was first opened, by Campbell/Brown government fiat, in 2002, to run private passenger rail on BC Rail's tracks, who, ultimately, ended up with the rights to move folks to Whistler and back, culminating in the shuttling of the pseudo-rich-and-famous up and down the line during the recent five-ringed Circus?
Why, that would be an outfit called the Rocky Mountaineer Railtours.
And who owns that outfit?
Why, that would be none other than Peter Armstrong, a fine fellow who Darryl Greer, writing in the Tyee in May of 2005, said:
Which got us to wondering just how much Mr. Armstrong and his 'Armstrong Group' of companies has given the Campbell/Brown party since then.
Here are the 2005 to 2010 numbers straight from the Elections BC Website:
If you click to enlarge the image above, you'll see that the total is $197,170 since 2005. Which, believe it or not, is even more than David McLean and CN Rail gave to the BC Liberal Party over the same period.
In addition, there is an interesting tangential Railgate connection between the Armstrong, McLean and the Campbell clans that involves more than just money.
And we'll tell you all about that later, if needed, in our Weekend Wurlitzer Wind-Up to come.
Please note: No pre-trial publication bans of any kind were harmed in the writing of this post.