Port Alberni resident Roland Smith wants answers about the Alberni Pacific Railway (APR).
Smith submitted an eight-page letter to city council, dated Oct. 3, 2017, in which he asked about the organizational structure and the registered owner of the APR.
To test his suspicion that there is no “official” Alberni Pacific Railway in existence, Smith applied to Corporate Registry on Sept. 18 to reserve and pay for the name “Alberni Pacific Railway Ltd.” to see if the name would be rejected. It was not.
“I received confirmation that I have the name reserved awaiting my next instruction,” said Smith in his Oct. 3 letter.
His correspondence was received and passed on to city CAO Tim Pley for a response during a Tuesday, Oct. 10 meeting of city council.
Smith said on Monday, Oct. 16 that he had begun quietly asking questions about the railway “last November or December” and that he has written letters to council on several occasions without receiving the documentation he has asked for.
“I didn’t want to do this,” he said. “(There was) nothing until I did this. That got everybody’s attention. If they have the documents, then just show them to the public.
“Ten months of letter writing just to show me a document? That’s stretching it.”
Councillor Sharie Minions brought the topic forward again during her councillor’s report on Oct. 10.
“I’m just wondering if we have some kind of process around answering questions from people in the public that are written in letters,” she said, confirming that she was specifically referring to Smith’s letter. “It feels a bit like we’re putting off an uncomfortable subject. I know a lot of concerns brought forward in his letter are definitely concerns that I have, as well.”
She pointed out that Smith was seated in council chambers throughout the duration of the two-hour council meeting. “It doesn’t feel acceptable to put that off another two weeks,” she said.
Pley confirmed that he personally made the decision that he wasn’t able to put together an answer in a thorough manner.
City clerk Davina Hartwell explained that a letter will be answered by the next council meeting if city staff has the time to answer it. “In this case, the letter was quite detailed,” she said. “We try and anticipate what response might be required and bring that in time, and sometimes that works out and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Pley added, “Mr. Smith writes letters often. I’ve told council before and expressed publicly that I feel his input is valuable. He holds us accountable. When I respond, I want that to be thorough and accurate. It’s going to take some time.”
Smith said that he doesn’t anticipate an answer for two or three weeks—not likely at the next council meeting. “In fairness to them, they need some time” to respond, he said.
Smith has until Nov. 15 to decide whether he wants to proceed with incorporation, but he said he has no intention of following through with registering the name Alberni Pacific Railway Ltd.
“It costs $2,000 to incorporate,” he said.
Once the reservation on his name request expires, the name will be up for grabs once more. The whole point of reserving the name, Smith said, was to draw attention to the paperwork
“I’m not trying to be malicious or anything,” he said. “I fully expected to touch a nerve with this.”