Yes. VIA does say there is a tentative agreement.

It has been a roller coaster ride over the past few days.

We had the big high of the announcement followed by a low when VIA categorically denied that any agreement had been signed. Newspaper articles were flying left, right and centre.

Yours truly even decided to phone and email Jaques Gagnon of VIA Rail on Thursday to ask what was up. Here is that email with his answers as he wrote them:

Has a tentative agreement been reached with Southern Railway as was announced by the ICF yesterday? There is no formal agreement reached between VIA Rail Canada and SVI/ICF

Did VIA email the ICF and SVI permission to hold the press conference yesterday and use the term tentative agreement as co-Chair Judith Sayers has indicated in public interviews? No

Will the tentative agreement be submitted to the VIA Rail board for ratification and if so when? Hypothetical

Are there details you can share about the tentative agreement that the ICF has not already shared? No

Pretty definitive, and a little snarky honestly.

Throughout this drama Mr. Gagnon has been leaning heavily on the difference in the words “tentative” and “formal”. I emailed him a followup to the question above noting that I had not asked if there was a formal agreement, but rather if there was a tentative one like the ICF announcement. I have received no response.

The intransigence seemed to start to break down in an interview with the Times Colonist though.

Asked about the foundation’s description of a “tentative deal,” Gagnon said: “I would leave it to them to describe what is a tentative agreement or an agreement in principle. We all know that, in business, a contract is valid from the moment both parties sign and we’re not there.”

So he has consistently refused to confirm if any tentative agreement (which are very common in all negotiations) had been reached insisting instead that no deal existed or seemed to be worth talking about until the “contract” was “valid” and signed.

This intransigence seemed to spark some annoyance from Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney who was quoted Thursday in the Parksville Qualicum Beach newspaper:

“It is disappointing that VIA didn’t stand with the ICF at this time,” said Lunney. “I have assurance from both ends that there is a tentative agreement. The agreement is there.”

Lunney would not speculate on when any official announcement would come, but he said “there’s no excuses for delaying anymore.”

And perhaps that is what sealed it because again on Thursday Alberni radio station 93.3 The Peak interviewed the other spokesperson for VIA, Mylène Bélanger.

Her telephone quote broadcast on the radio:

There is a tentative agreement on the table that must be signed.

There was that really so hard?