Province steps forward with $7.2 million towards CN corridor purchase

Opponents of provincial funding announcement say no surprise government stepping forward as more folks come out against purchase

Provincial cash is being pumped into preserving a rail corridor.

Victoria committed Tuesday to providing $7.2 million towards the purchase of the abandoned Canadian National line from Coldstream to Kelowna.

“By putting an unused rail line to better use, connecting communities as a cycling and walking  trail, there will be even more reasons to get outside.,” said Premier Christy Clark.

Clark’s announcement came as no surprise to the local jurisdictions who will make up the remainder of the $22 million price tag.

“We’ve been basing our figures on a provincial grant happening,” said James Baker, Lake Country mayor.

Besides Lake Country, the other partners are Kelowna and the Regional District of North Okanagan.

“I’m pleased they (province) have recognized it’s a positive thing for the region,” said Juliette Cunningham, chairperson of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, which is part of RDNO.

However, provincial funding depends on a positive April 25 referendum in Lake Country to borrow $2.6 million for the rail purchase.

“By making our intention clear to financially  assist with the acquisition, I hope it will better inform residents of  Lake Country as they consider how they will vote on the upcoming referendum,” said Norm Letnick, Lake Country MLA.

Resident Ron Volk, a vocal opponent of the corridor purchase, says it’s no surprise the government made the announcement, as more and more people are coming forward raising concerns about the purchase of the corridor.

Volk said the announcement was made to try to convince people to vote yes in the referendum.

Meanwhile Baker is confident government funding will alleviate some public concerns over buying the land.

“We see this as an investment for the future and an opportunity for (tourism) revenue so we don’t have to tax,” he said.

That view is also supported by Cunningham.

“We don’t often get an opportunity for such a contiguous public access. It opens up opportunities for tourism,” she said.

The Okanagan Indian Band recently filed documents in B.C. Supreme Court over its claim to the Commonage lands, which includes the CN line along Kalamalka Lake.

Chief Byron Louis doesn’t believe the provincial government is interfering in the case by helping local communities purchase the corridor.

“I don’t think it will have much effect on the court case either way,” he said.

“Courts don’t decide based on whether a sitting government is in favour or not. They look at the facts.”