Ended: Weekly Letter Campaign to VIA, SVI and the ICF


Update: April 2, 2014


I don’t know if this little letter writing campaign made any difference but today the ICF announced that VIA and SVI have signed a tentative agreement that is only pending ratification by the Boards of the ICF, SVI and VIA. You can read more on the news page.

That means the need for this campaign has officially ended. To those that allowed your name to be sent along I thank you very very much. I of believe it must have been some difference.

I will keep this page under the Access to Information section just for archival purposes. It is worth noting that the agreement that has been reached is much better than what I thought, and wrote below. So I do believe it is a victory.

Thank you Again.


Remember Andy in Shawshank Redemption when he wrote letters every month for years until they created a library in the prison?
If you agree the delay in getting a signed agreement, or any resolution at all, between VIA and Southern Railway and the ICF is unacceptable, please consider this.

Update: On February 11th I received a phone call response from Jaques Gagnon. I’ve summarized at the bottom of this page. The campaign, however, continues.

The following letter is the first of weekly letters that will be sent to Jaques Gagnon of VIA Rail, Frank Butzelaar of Southern Railway of Vancouver Island, and Graham Bruce of the Island Corridor Foundation. The letter is primarily addressed to the two principals in the potential contract, VIA Rail and SVI. The letter will be cc’ed to Graham Bruce at the ICF. If you would like to send your own letter, the email addresses are linked above.

If you would like me to include your name at the bottom of this letter automatically in future weeks, just send your name by email here: chrisale@gmail.com you can include your physical address if you would like that included in the letter.

Your name will be added to the letter and you will get a BCC when the emails are sent. They will continue until a resolution to the situation is achieved, whatever that may be.

This is a small step, but the our railway is being held hostage, time to do something to help.

The letter:

Dear Mr Gagnon and Mr Butzelaar,

The length of time it has taken for VIA Rail and SVI to agree to a new Train Service Agreement is unacceptable. As I know you are aware, there are public funds attached to your signing an agreement and your continued failure to do so frustrates not only those parties that have agreed to that funding but also the public that is waiting for the TSA and funding in order to return the Island Railway to a fully operational state for both freight and passenger service.

In effect, your inaction is holding Vancouver Island railway users hostage.

I would also remind you that there are options for mediation and resolution under the original TSA that could possibly be enacted.

This letter will be sent every week to remind you of your moral obligation to deliver a conclusion to these negotiations as soon as possible.

Sincerely and on behalf of the undersigned,

Chris Alemany

Update: A Phone Call from Jaques Gagnon

To my surprise, on February 11th I received a call from Jaques Gagnon, Senior Media Relations Manager at VIA Rail and one half of the pair addressed in the letter.

Mr. Gagnon was particularly upset by the notion of a ‘moral obligation’ to come to a conclusion. I believe he mis interpreted this statement as a moral obligation to provide service but I explained to him that I and I believe the folks who signed along on the letter and indeed many more on the Island are just generally fed up with waiting for so long for something to happen.

Most importantly, Mr. Gagnon indicated that VIA could not return to the Island until track conditions were safe for passenger traffic and that VIA Rail did not believe the $20 Million investment committed by the Federal, provincial and local governments and Southern Rail was sufficient to bring the railway to that safe standard. He emphasized this point quite forcefully.

For this reason above all else, I believe we may not see a deal signed that will have VIA Rail return to Vancouver Island anytime in the near future. While that is certainly not good news, it does make it even more imperative that these negotiations come to an end so that we can move on and re evaluate the funding that was committed and how to bring back both full freight service (which relied on the funding as well) and passenger service perhaps from another provider.

Mr. Gagnon also reiterated the positions we have heard in the media before relating to the lack of a Victoria train station, maintenance shifting to Nanaimo, and the requirement for the $1.4 Million subsidy to not be increased.

In the end he indicated that we are of course not alone in losing our service to track concerns. The same has happened in New Brunswick and the Gaspé region of Québec. He was very adamant that VIA wants to return and provide service to Islanders, but cannot for the reasons above.

My response to him was that I was of course disappointed, as I believe many would be, and that the root cause was lack of government funding and support both federally for VIARail, and from all government for local infrastructure. In his words, VIA Rail, is a crown corporation, and must be accountable to the taxpayer. On that we agreed.

So that is what I have heard from Mr. Gagnon. I have not had a response from Mr. Butzelaar. I have been in contact with the ICF and they seem supportive of the campaign.

Since no resolution has come forth, the campaign will continue. Given this response from Mr. Gagnon, it might be more important than ever to encourage the parties to either agree, or end it and move on. Which result is best is likely something we would only find out years into the future, but some sort of resolution is overdue.

Please consider spreading the word about this campaign, it has clearly struck a chord.