|Community gardens at West 6th Avenue and Pine Street - note worn out CP Rail sign - new "no trespassing" signs were put in place recently nearby - Bill Tieleman photo|
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Vancouver Gardens on Arbutus Corridor Railroaded For Greed by CP Rail
CP Rail removes plots, pressuring the city to pay more for its private land
Tuesday August 19, 2014
By Bill Tieleman
“Great railway corporations are the most dangerous enemies popular government ever had.”
— David Mills, Member of Parliament, 1872
Canadian Pacific Railway is a dirty rotten scoundrel, needlessly destroying people’s harmless gardens in the Arbutus corridor in a greedy drive to pressure Vancouver to buy its railway line land for $100 million.
Because I’m only getting started. Last week, the company began tearing out the plots tended by local gardeners along its disused line, which will eventually include near Burrard and West 6th.
Let me say that I respect private property rights, and I believe the CP Rail corridor must be retained as a potential future transportation line, not for housing development.
What I don’t respect is the deliberate devastation of up to 350 permitted community gardens along an 11-kilometre ribbon of land through the city – for the sole purpose of forcing Vancouver to pay CP Rail $80 million more than the $20 million offered.
The vicious tactics are calculated to enrage citizens before a municipal election so that Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson feels forced to surrender.
An urban oasis
But the fact is that thousands of Vancouver residents took land CP Rail shamefully neglected since its last train ran in 2001 and turned it into an urban oasis.
No one can walk the abandoned CP Rail lines near Burrard and West 6th Avenue without admiring everything from fig trees to pumpkins – making the city more beautiful.
Robertson, who I support, calls CP Rail “bullies.”
CP spokesperson Breanne Feigel said on the day the removals began: "We're not seeing negotiations have progressed in a positive manner... we need to utilize these assets and unfortunately that's the work we're doing today."
But it's obvious that CP Rail has no plans to run locomotives, or anything else, on the tracks. The company is slashing and burning in order to railroad Vancouver into raising its offer.
At a minimum, the corporation should have left gardeners to finish the season and start reclaiming their property in the late fall.
In comparison, the company was happy to sell Richmond 14.7 acres of CP Rail land along a 3.6 kilometre stretch of old railway track in 2010 for $5 million for public use.
But its Vancouver strategy is based on intimidation, not accommodation with city residents.
Aside from needlessly bulldozing gardens to try and meet their goal, CP Rail is also making another mistake.
It's called public relations. Most companies around the world try to improve their image, donating to charities, sponsoring cancer fundraisers and ensuring residents and politicians see them as good corporate citizens.
Astonishingly, CP Rail claims on its website that: "We do our best to be a reasonable neighbour."
Really? How is bulldozing a neighbour's garden reasonable?
CP Rail continues: "Just as you take care of the things you own, such as your home and yard, CP does the same for our property. We take special care in maintaining our right-of-way -- the area on both sides of our tracks -- and work hard to quickly address any concerns regarding its appearance."
Is cutting the grass and pulling the weeds after 13 years CP Rail's idea of taking special care of its appearance?
Who'll stand up?
Led by cost-cutter American Hunter Harrison, CP Rail's three largest investors are big U.S. hedge funds or financial institutions. Not one of its board of directors comes from B.C.
So don't expect the company to care much about what happens in Vancouver or even Canada.
The fourth largest institutional investor, however, is the Royal Bank of Canada. It spends millions in advertising to keep and win customers here.
It's time for RBC to publicly say that CP Rail should stop railroading Vancouver and clear-cutting people's gardens.