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Home » AMPPE in the News » CPR and Transport Canada poop the bed in Golden

April 4, 2016 – Kootenay Crust. Story by Ian Cobb.

Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) has been the dark lord on the Canadian landscape since the 1880s.

Beginning with the greasiness of the Pacific Scandal to the amazing procurement of massive volumes of land right across Canada, much to Marathon Realty’s glee, to being the corporate equivalent of Mr. Burns in the eyes of the average Canadian, the CPR as a corporation could care less about what people think of it.

When it comes to being a good corporate neighbour, CPR acts like it is reeaally busy and hopes said neighbour(s) leave(s) them the hell alone.

Hands up municipalities across Canada if when you asked the CPR to ‘cut down on all that train horn blowing business’ your request was heard and acted upon.

Such requests, as Fernie and Invermere can attest, are like Mister Bean sauntering up to a bike gang’s compound and asking those inside to join him in a turkey cavity head stuffing soiree.

The company-that-Canadians-love-to-hate is currently batting at a growing buzz emanating out of the Golden area, like a fat sow griz seated beneath a beehive.

Seemingly the entire community of Golden, which houses a good-sized CP rail yard, and many nearby and beyond are snarling angry after the company started barring access to the Kicking Horse River (over its property and tracks) to whitewater rafters and kayakers.

Golden is one of the best places in North America to ride big water. There is great tradition and for the past 40 years or so, CPR has allowed access to the river in the lower canyon. It’s a big part of Golden’s tourism package.

Now, because some Transport Canada rule-book-wagger apparently flagged the crossing as unsafe last year, the railway is closing it to public access.

“These rafting companies have been dangerously trespassing across railway tracks for a number of years potentially endangering their customers and guides,” CP spokeswoman Salem Woodrow told CBC last week.

Fair enough. Rail tracks are not things to take lightly. Unfortunately, it seems CPR’s trained seal (PR shield) may think the companies that have been availing themselves to the pleasure and luxury of crossing those tracks are not taking care or being safe. I can assure you, they are all extremely safe. Just as they don’t want to kill their customers or die themselves in the cold, dangerous and highly entertaining churn of the Kicking Horse, nor do they wish to be splattered by a train at a crossing.

Local and regional leaders are trying to get the company to listen to reason.

“Along with a community of caring and committed stakeholders on Thursday, I sat down with representatives from CP Rail to make our community’s position clear: CP Rail’s response to our community cannot be ‘no,’” said Golden Mayor Ron Oszust. “Golden and area residents accept the risks that come with having a railway in the heart of our community, including the risk of derailments and spills. In contrast, over more than 30 years, not a single incident has occurred at the crossing in question. As a community, we mitigate the risks that we face, and our expectation is that CP Rail will do the same in this situation. Access to the lower canyon of the Kicking Horse River must continue, and this needs to be resolved prior to the season opening in May.”

Mayor Oszust was joined by representatives of the rafting and kayaking community, Golden and District Search and Rescue, Tourism Golden, Kicking Horse Chamber of Commerce, Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski (by phone), a representative from Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald’s office, Regional District Director Karen Cathcart, and other members of Golden council.

“I was carrying the message that I have heard from every single stakeholder. We are expecting that CP Rail will return to its role of a good corporate citizen and community partner to negotiate a solution for all parties. There is a solution, and collectively we need to find it,” Ozust said.

There is always a solution to such a ‘problem.’ I for one say we find a way to make the railway pay for all the damages it causes rolling alongside our precious rivers, creeks and lakes on an annual basis. But mebbe if you let us cross your tracks here and there to access said waterways, which you separated all Canadians from back when the first splash of grease was still dribbling down Van Horne’s chinny chin chin, to continue an economic driver and tradition that doesn’t just benefit Golden but the entire provincial tourism picture, we can let that severe, ongoing transgression slide.

Granted, CPR is blaming this on Transport Canada. So that means, other than CPR is actually doing what a government body is asking, which is a freaking miracle, that both Transport Canada and CPR need to remove their heads from their bums and sort this stupid mess out.

Both of you, quit being dicks! CPR –  why not give being ‘a good corporate neighbour’ more of an effort than your current skimpy efforts? You used to be known as a ‘family’ by your employees – when my own father stretched the life of anything electrical for you during his 30 plus year stint in your employ. He’d think you were “daffy” for letting this silly scuffle happen.

You used to stand up to Transport Canada – as best as you could. In case you need a hint, now is a good time!

That said, because I believe CPR couldn’t care less about any of us, nor could it give a rat’s behind about what I or anyone else has to say, the only way we can force a real discussion and create a compromise that doesn’t bugger up several local businesses is become BIG.

Following a previous meeting with CPR on March 24, a social media campaign was launched to gather support from local residents. The ‘Save the Lower Canyon’ Facebook page was launched, and has already received 1,778 likes. A petition on change.org has reached 4,761 signatures and growing.

Rafting companies and politicians have received 200 letters of support from local citizens, local business owners, regional and provincial tourism organizations, and people from around the world who have visited the lower canyon.

“The response we have received in just a week has been really amazing,” said Ryan Johannesen, owner of Glacier Rafting, speaking on behalf of the Kicking Horse River Outfitters Association. “Thousands of people from around the world have heard about this situation, and they just want to know what they can do to help keep access to the Lower Canyon open.”

Supporters are urged to sign the petition, share the Facebook page, and send an email of support to Transportation Minister Marc Garneau.

“We are confident that the federal government and CP Rail will come to understand the importance of maintaining access to this important section of this heritage river, and hearing from people who love the river will definitely help,” continued Johannesen.

Support has also been received from the Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia, Destination BC, the Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment, the BC River Outfitters Association and the Wilderness Tourism Association.

The following is an excerpt from a letter dated March 30, to Mark Wallace, VP Corporate Affairs for CP Rail from Walt Judas, CEO, Tourism Industry Association for BC: “The Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia (TIABC) is urging CP Rail to find a fair compromise with Kicking Horse River Outfitters Association for access to the lower canyon of the Kicking Horse River that would allow rafting companies to continue operations.

“River rafting is one of the iconic visitor experiences in the Kootenay Rockies region, attracting some 40,000 thrill seekers annually and contributing millions of dollars to the local economy.”

Marsha Walden, President and CEO, Destination British Columbia, wrote: “As you have stated, the lower canyon has provided the community of Golden and the surrounding area with invaluable tourism opportunities for over 40 years, especially for those involved in the river rafting business. The safety of visitors and residents alike is of course a primary concern and it is my hope that Canadian Pacific will continue to work with the stakeholders in this area to find a viable option that will allow for safe access to the river for all involved.”

“This is a critical issue for Golden and for this area,” Mayor Oszust pointed out.

“My office has been overwhelmed by the number of emails of support and requests for a resolution for this situation we have received. Whether it is from the perspective of business owners who will feel the effect of the loss of tourism dollars or of people from around the world who love the canyon, this is an issue that gets people talking. If you haven’t already done so, show your support by signing this petition,” stated MLA Macdonald stated.

“I stand with MLA Norm Macdonald, Regional Director Karen Cathcart, Golden Mayor Ron Oszust and council in support of a fair compromise between CP and the Kicking Horse River Outfitters Association for access to the lower canyon that considers the safety of all residents and visitors and that would allow rafting companies to continue operations,” MP Stetski added.

To all quoted here and involved, please keep the pressure up. CPR’s so-called invincibility – the so-called ‘taking on God’ as many before us has declared when butting heads with the company that stitched Canada together – is no more.

And to Transport Canada, quit mucking about and solve this – it’s your bailiwick. Our local tourism industry and the ability to continue to make a living in such a seasonal economic climate must take precedence over uptight book-stiff rules that are almost always unnecessary if common sense is being employed.

We have it covered on our end here in the Kootenays. What’s your problem?

Original article sourced here.

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