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The Columbia Journal
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Columbia Journal logoVolume Nine, Number Two    April 2004    www.columbiajournal.ca

    BC Rail Sale Sidetracked

    Jim Lipkovits and Marco Procaccini

    BC Rail sidelinesThe BC Liberal government’s move to sell BC Rail, already marred in scandal, has taken another hit as newly leaked documents showing a secret deal to sell railroad lands to the Canadian National Railway for just one dollar have come to light.

    In addition, the documents, obtained by the NDP opposition, say the government is planning to do this under a one thousand year lease agreement with the company.

    "The scheme to sell BC Rail was already under a considerable cloud of suspicion due to the police investigation of key BC Liberal officials and allegations by rival bidders of leaks of confidential information," said BC NDP leader Carole James, adding that the privatization deal should be halted because of the scandals. ”In addition, the leaked sections of the agreement allow -- after just five years -- for the sale of public land under rail lines to CN for one dollar. These lands include very valuable waterfront properties between North Vancouver and Squamish.”

    The Liberals had repeatedly promised during the 2001 provincial election campaign that they would not sell off BC Rail if they formed the next government. Shortly after they were elected, they began the process to do just that.... continued

    Jobless Rate Climbs as BC Economy Lags

    Marco Procaccini

    The number of people out of work in B.C. was up last month – to 7.9 per cent from 7.3 per cent in January.

    The monthly Statistics Canada report says B.C. lost 36,000 jobs in February, with the retail and construction the hardest hit.

    In Vancouver, the unemployment rate rose from 6.2 per cent in January to 6.3 per cent in February.  Victoria's jobless picture also worsened – from 5.5 per cent in January to 5.6 per cent last month.

    “The largest employment loss in British Columbia was in retail trade, and may be the result of weaker consumer spending over this past holiday season,” Statscan said. “Employment also dropped in construction, following consecutive monthly declines in housing starts. The employment decline in February pushed the unemployment rate up by 0.6 percentage points to 7.9 per cent.”
    Despite a brief increase in job creation in the last quarter of 2003, Statscan reports show BC’s economy has been slowing down relative to the rest of the country, with unemployment continuing on an overall rise, mostly among men.

    BC was also hardest hit by rising youth unemployment, now at 14.1 per cent. Despite the usual pre-Christmas hiring spurt among youth, the report says youth faced a dismal job climate for all of last year—the worst being in BC.

    Nationally, the unemployment rate held steady at 7.4 per cent, with the loss of more than 21,000 jobs. Economists had been looking for an increase of at least 15,000 jobs.... continued


    Liberals Under Fire as Wait Lists Jump Again

    CPP News Service

    The number of British Columbians waiting for surgery has taken another dramatic jump, NDP Leader Carole James said today. According to the government’s own figures, the number of British Columbians on waitlists has grown to 77,222, or 25% more than in June 2001 when the BC Liberals took power.

    “There is no denying these numbers. The BC Liberals have run out of excuses,” said James. “Under the Campbell government, more British Columbians than ever are languishing on health care wait lists.”

    James said the most dramatic increase is the number of British Columbians waiting for orthopedic surgery, where wait lists have jumped by 66% since June, 2001. Ophthalmological wait lists have increased by more than 16%; ear, nose and throat surgery by more than 15%; and urological surgery by more than 45%.

    “Health care where and when you need it was the promise, but longer wait lists are the reality,” said James. “After almost three years in power, it’s time for the Liberals to admit their health care agenda is failing British Columbia".... continued





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