Update: Kelowna to Vernon Rail Line

As you know, the railway discontinuance process has been top of mind for many folks in the Okanagan.

Two weeks ago, I received an early phone call from Kelly Brown, manager of Ashland Canada, to let me know that as of June this year their operations will be closed down.

Kelly informed me that the decision made by the head office in Ohio to shut the Kelowna operations down was based on several factors, not just the future of the rail line.

Likewise, the announcement of the closure of Ashland Canada does not automatically mean the KPR line will not resume operations.

Discussions are still ongoing between CN and interested parties who have expressed an interest in reviving the KPR line.

If an agreement is reached, then the operator will apply to the Province for a Charter to operate the rail line at which point CN is removed from the equation and the federal Canadian Transportation Act would no longer apply.

Protecting the corridor for public access would become the responsibility of the provincial government.

If there is no agreement then CN will proceed with the discontinuance process.

During this phase a number of government bodies will have an opportunity to express an interest in acquiring the line beginning with the federal government and First Nations, which will have 30 days to respond, followed by the Province, then BC Transit due to the fact that the rail corridor is within the Kelowna CMA, and finally the City of Kelowna.

From the outset there was always the possibility the line would not be economically feasible but there should be no doubt that our Okanagan MPs and MLAs, and our Mayors and city councils are well aware of how important an asset this rail line is. 

Regardless of the negotiations with CN, many of us see an opportunity to find an alternative use for the rail line, including the creation of a spectacular Okanagan recreational corridor which would support not only healthy living but local tourism and the subsequent economic benefits that would be generated in the community.

Vernon’s Brad Clements and others continue to work on this scenario and have managed to successfully raise funds in support of this initiative.  To check in on their progress you can go to www.okanaganrailtrail.com .

The perfect outcome remains a multi-modal pedestrian/cycling-friendly corridor as well as an active rail line and I want to thank everyone in the community who has put in time, effort and funding to works towards a positive outcome.

As noted before, the Kelowna-Vernon line served us well for nearly 80 years and we have an opportunity to make sure it continues to do so. 

The Honourable Ron Cannan is the Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country and welcomes your feedback at [email protected].  Information on local announcements and federal government programs can be found at www.cannan.ca .

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About the Author

The Honourable Ron Cannan was first elected as Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country in January, 2006. He was subsequently elected in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections. He is a member of the Conservative Caucus.

On September 13th, 2012 Ron was summoned to be a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and will provide advice to the Government as a member of the Priorities and Planning Sub-Committee on Government Administration.

Ron successfully uses his experience and knowledge as a long-time Kelowna City Councillor and regional government representative to be an effective and enthusiastic champion for his riding and his constituents.

His greatest satisfaction comes from helping local organizations and citizens obtain the support they require from Ottawa. 

He is also dedicated to doing what it takes to ensure that the growing and vibrant communities in his riding continue to thrive and prosper.

He is proud of the partnership and cooperation between federal, provincial and municipal governments which have resulted in significant infrastructure projects including upgrades to Highway 97, expansion of the Kelowna International Airport, a new horticulture strategy for fruit growers, obtaining a full service passport office for Kelowna and addressing critical economic issues such as labour skills shortages.

He works closely with the local Chambers of Commerce and once a year arranges meetings for the Chamber with Cabinet Ministers and senior policy staff in Ottawa to move forward important local issues such as crime prevention and labour skills shortages.

He is also an ardent champion for important community initiatives including homelessness, mental health, women’s resources, and support of arts and culture.

On Parliament Hill, Ron has been a member of the Standing Committee on International Trade since 2006 supporting initiatives which will broaden the economic opportunities for local businesses and businesses Canada-wide.

In previous parliamentary sessions Ron has been a member of the Standing Committee for Government Operations and Estimates, Veteran’s Affairs, Human Resources and Social Development, the Scrutiny of Regulations Committee, and the Standing Committee for Fisheries and Oceans.

Ron is also involved in a variety of inter-parliamentary organizations: he is Vice Chair of the Canada-US Inter-Parliamentary Group, and a member of the Canada-Taiwan Friendship group.

As Chair of the Conservative Wine Caucus, Ron works with his colleagues across the country to promote the wine regions of Canada.  Ron tabled Motion 218(formerly Motion 601) which supports direct to consumer purchasing of Canadian wine. His motion became Bill C-311, sponsored by MP Dan Albas, seconded by Ron, which was passed into law on June 28th, 2012.

Prior to entering politics, Ron developed a diverse business background as a small business owner and had several years experience in marketing and sales management working with corporations including Coca-Cola, Costco and Corus Entertainment.

Very active in his community, Ron has been a Director for both the Central Okanagan Regional District and the Central Okanagan Hospital Board. Ron also served on the Okanagan University College Access to Training Advisory Board, the Glenmore Elementary School Parents Advisory Council, and the Kelowna Christian School Fund Raising Committee. He was co-founder of the Okanagan Volunteer Festival. Currently Ron is a member of the Sunrise Rotary Club of Kelowna and, along with his wife Cindy, was the honorary Chair of the 2012 Canadian Cancer Society Daffodil Ball.

Ron lives a family-oriented and active lifestyle with his wife Cindy. He is the proud father of three daughters and grandfather to three grandsons. His hobbies include music and sports.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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