In the good company of Doug Fleming and Councillor Galbraith, I just completed a telephone conference call hosted by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). Topic: railway issues common to municipalities across British Columbia. From White Rock to Chetwynd and Valemount to Smithers, our pain and frustrations are the same: blocked crossings, whistle blowing, communication, the powerlessly disheartening sense that we are confronting a giant with a wet spaghetti.
The frustration latent in the voices on the telephone was palpable. Big railroads and big government are not dialed in to the plaintive pleas of sleep-deprived commuters resignedly tapping their fingers at the crossings. Not surprising. We’ve all been there more often than we care to remember. Big railroad and big government both live very far away. Naturally, they tend to ignore a single, lonely voice in the wilderness.
Therefore, the resolve to unite our voices to collectively create an increasing crescendo of focused intent that clearly defines our minimum needs, and that cannot be ignored forever. The FCM already has taken up the nation-wide campaign for us. The FCM actually has a working committee on the job urging our very reasonable needs and pushing toward resolution of this national problem.
In a sense, we in Chetwynd are much less afflicted than our compatriots in communities such as Valemount, Fernie, or Mission where trains will rumble, shake, and whistle past at 80 k per hour every few minutes. That doesn’t mean that we should give up the effort to reduce our pain. In fact, we should increase the effort and work much smarter, if not harder. Hence, our climbing aboard the FCM train to blow our collective whistle and perhaps wake up big railway and big government in the night or sit on their crossings for a while – just to get attention.
The obstacles are enormous. Big railway and big government don’t move easily and they don’t hear well. To get them with us to the same table to discuss matters of no concern to them doesn’t rank high on their to-do lists. We can’t boycott the railroads nor can we stop paying our taxes. Be it far from me to even harbor such thoughts. But we can put on the pressure – with good suggestions accompanying – in every legitimate way. You should take every opportunity to raise the issue with your member of parliament because railway is regulated by the federal government. You should write your federal minister frequently. But don’t lie down in front of the trains.
As for the efforts of the District of Chetwynd, your elected Councillors, the Mayor, and the Administration are working through all available avenues to get the message to Ottawa. Councillor Pfanner has just attended the FCM annual convention where he met with representatives of the FCM and the railroad to personally press our case for mitigation of the most pressing issues: excessive waits at the crossings and whistle blowing through the town.
The fight is not over.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor