Maybe I was being silly but I just couldn't help cringing every time I noticed a CN Rail vehicle. Oh sure I know full well that they're the same drivers as the BC Rail ones, but damn it if it didn't sting each and every time they passed by. At first I wrote off the pangs as simple nostalgia for an old neighbor. Then I realized, no, BC Rail was more than a neighbor, they were a cash crop which employed hundreds and made undeniable impacts in our community. Sure they were far from perfect but at the end of the day they worked for us and as such they were accountable.
Of course, since then, Gordon Campbells' Liberals decided to sell the company to his old buddies at CN Rail. But this column isn't about the increasingly criminal sale of our asset, or our municipal governments questionable sell out, but rather about the now obvious differences between our old and new neighbors.
The biggest difference appearing to be accountability. BC Rail was forced to adhere to strict standards of safety with the bottom line being service. CN on the other hand is not owned by the crown so their only concern is money.
There is nothing wrong with making money, we all have to eat, and lord knows it makes decision making easier by allowing you to use simple math. As any bad apple CEO can tell you, the first step to the bank involves removing all the pesky safety standards and staff. Let's face it, safety and trained staff is bloody expensive. When you add up how much it costs a year to maintain tracks, and ensure safety measures are met, you're looking at multiple millions of dollars. Then calculate costs to un-safely increase the number of cars, speed them up, remove all safety standards and deal with the odd / inevitable accident that may happen. It's that math that has made CEOs millions. Add the fact that they apear to be poorly regulated and you have a recipe for disaster.
A recipe that apparently involves 51,000 liters of sodium hydroxide to be dumped without warning in the Chekamus river. 734,000 liters of fuel oil dumped in Alberta. Then of course there's the classic Transportation Safety Board report in '03 citing CN allowed a trestle bridge to rot leading to a derailment which killed two employees. The board blamed "several shortcomings in the inspection, planning and maintenance processes that allowed the unsafe condition to exist because of the employees' heavy workload, overlap of duties and job transitions." Oh well, it's not like anyone important lost sleep or money over it.
The best part? This is only the beginning. You can bet a million dead salmon that there will be another accident as CN Rail continues to be allowed to act with out fear of reprisal. I suppose the only thing to do is pray that the next "cost of doing business" doesn't involve one of the countless CN shipments of propane to Whistler. Tick tick tick?