The Grinch isn’t always green and hanging out in children’s books. Sometimes the Grinch comes in the form of policy or procedure that flies in the face of public expectation.
British Columbians were unimpressed when Premier Gordon Campbell broke his promise not to sell BC Rail. Then came that announcement that the province had a $1 billion deal with CN Rail for it to take over BC Rail lines, staff and capital. Sure, it’s a lease agreement, but it lasts many decades and spelled the death knell for BC Rail, so it’s a defacto sale.
Out of the deal came word of a $135 million trust fund to help communities along the rail line. Okay, technically it’s bribing residents with their own money, but Interior communities can use a boost, what with forestry nailed by U.S. tariffs and pesky insects, agriculture hurt by BSE, and tourism, forestry and agriculture all prone to the vagaries of Mother Nature. So representatives from the affected communities became involved with the Northern Development Initiative (NDI), as it was dubbed.
The fund included $50 million for cross-regional economic investment, $60 million for regional economic development and $25 million to cover operating expenses. Its creation included no announcement that those receiving money from the fund would have to pay into it. That came from the board put in place in recent months.
The rest of the billion dollars from the deal has long since disappeared into government coffers. While British Columbians appreciate the fact that governments are there to provide services to the public, they also know that governments, no matter the party affiliation, are notorious for controversial spending decisions, to put it nicely.
The whole point of putting money aside into a trust is that it is structured in such a way that it is self-perpetuating and viable for the long term.