LETTERS: Greedy railway barons

The newly elected RDNO mayors, reeves and Indian chiefs should collectively tell the CNR to take a long walk off a short pier.

Eastern Canada’s railway barons could not begin to imagine just how big their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow would eventually be after they had built the Canadian Pacific Railway.

First, the CPR would be awarded 25 million acres of free prime real estate. Even today, 130 years after finishing the railway,  the CPR and Marathon Realty (MR) — the CPR’s real estate subsidiary which controls their land holdings across Canada — must be astonished with their incredible bonanza.

Why was MR formed in the first place? For logical thinkers and history buffs, introducing MR made perfect sense from the CPR’s perspective.

Second, MR was quickly organized and introduced for one single reason. The railway act in the beginning declared that — if for any reason — a rail line was taken out of service and the tracks removed, the land ownership was supposed to revert to the Crown.

Throughout Canada many lines for various reasons have been shut down. Why then are the rails and ties left on the abandoned railway right of way? I believe the rails and ties are left in place for that simple reason. MR was mostly owned by foreigners and wealthy members of the eastern establishment. Western Canadians — mostly homesteaders, farmers and ranchers — opposing CPR and MR were no match in the courts for this growing and powerful conglomerate.

I am making an issue out of the abandoned CNR branch line between Kelowna and Vernon because for most of Canada’s history the railways have been heavily subsidized by trillions of taxpayer dollars. I was raised in Golden, B.C., a railway town. I have seen the power and influence up close of the CPR. In the 50s and 60s the railway barons travelled in their private coaches with all the benefits and perks enjoyed by a Royal tour. Some of them actually thought they were gods. Their coaches were attached to the last car on freight or passenger trains.

I sincerely believe the people in Kelowna and Vernon, the Regional District of the North Okanagan and the local Indian band should not have to pay the CNR more than $1 each. A total of $4 should cover the cost for the paper work to transfer the land to the four regions.

The very thought is ridiculous. Why should B.C. taxpayers continue the free ride for eastern Canadian stuffed shirt railway barons by paying them $22 million for land that should have reverted to the Crown years ago?

For the last several years the line was kept open, very little track maintenance was done, the rail and ties continued to deteriorate. Today a railway scooter could not operate safely on those rails. Paying the CNR more than $4 would be an absolute waste of time and money.

If the CNR opposes the $4 fee, the newly elected RDNO mayors, reeves and Indian chiefs should collectively tell the CNR to take a long walk off a short pier.

Ernie Slump