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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - September 17, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta 2-THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD Tuesday, September Railway bigwigs work-up st when Boucher campaign ru By TERRY McDONALD, Herald Staff Writer MAGRATH To hear Harold Boucher tell it, CP Rail has already abandoned the branch line from Raley to Whisky Gap once. He was instrumental in getting trains moving again and he's been campaigning fulltime ever since to make sure those CPR fellows don't get away with that again. Town hall meetings. Huddles with farmers in grain elevator of- fices. In stores. On street corners. Mr. Boucher wades in with his wake-up rural Alberta your're gonna lose your rail line pitch. Every session begins with the Boucher story about how the trains stopped running down the rickity Raley to Whisky Gap branch line back in 1972. Mr. Boucher, as president of the Magrath Chamber of Commerce, was organizing a meeting that would feature Bud Olson, then running for re-election as Medicine Hat member of Parliament (Magrath is on the western fringe of the Medicine Hat riding) and agriculture minister in the Trudeau cabinet. While Mr. Boucher was running around tidying up a few details for the meeting he was needled by some farmers in the Del Bonita area, south of Magrath just north of the U.S. border. They were somewhat less than fired up about attending the meeting and. besides, what had the Magrath chamber done for them recently that they should make an effort to attend his chamber spon- sored gathering. Well, what could the chamber do for them? Mr. Boucher asked. Useful It could do something useful likt helping the farmers get their grair .shipped out of their elevator point, they said. The train had stopped running down to Whisky Gap. It was now the third week in October and thev hadn't seen a train since the middle of August. All the elevators were full of grain and farmers had more at home they couldn't get rid of. The elevator people had made the proper requests but no cars were in sight. Mr. Boucher decided there couldn't be a better man to put the situation to than Agriculture Minister Olson. "The CPR had just abandoned the line. They ignored the cries for cars. That's what we told Bud Olson, that they had abandoned the line." Mr. Boucher recalls. Mr. Olson showed great surprise. xSomething would be done. And a few days later what should appear at Magrath heading down to Raley and the branch line but a train of empty grain cars. "Well. I got on the phone and called the CPR and asked where those cars were going." The recep- tion he got was a bit chilly but he finally reached the superintendent and got some answers after inform- ing him that "it was our chamber of commerce that got the federal agriculture department to get the CPR to send us those cars." End of story. Mr. Olson, who farms at Iddesleigh north of Medicine Hat. was defeated in the 1972 election and again in this past summer's election. His recollections of the in- cident two years ago are similar to Mr. Boucher's but he sees nobody in any villain's role. On hearing the plight of the farmers, he telephoned the manager of the Canadian Wheat Board who promised to check into it. The check revealed that the complaint was legitimate. Shipments out of the Raley-Whisky Gap line were slightly fewer than out of other similar districts and the situation would be cor- rected. Mr. Olson was told. Just why the Kaley-Whisky (Jap area was slightly behind is not clear. It is the wheat board's job to co-ordinate shipments using the railroads which, officially at least, have no choice send cars where they are told. It does happen though that the railway unintentionally fails to fulfil an occasional wheat board order. After all. mistakes do happen. And it also has been known to happen. The Herald was told, that the railroad will balk at sending tour or five cars to a district and will wait until it can send 20 to 25 cars to the district. Economics, you see. Mr. Boucher, meantime, has no doubts about what happened. Just ask him. The town hall meeting, the farmers and just plain folks react to Harold's victory in about the same way. They mostly don't think the railway would pull out their rail line, but Mr. Boucher certainly seems to know what he's talking about. And it's kind of comforting to know a man like him is in there pitching. Charter Mr. Boucher has been in there pitching ever since the fall of 1972. So gung-ho is he in his campaign that the lines must be saved and the railways made to continue serving rural Western Canada that he seldom goes anywhere without a copy of the original CPR charter. The charter, which became law back in February of 1881, expected the Canadian Railway com- pany to build and operate the railway forever. It says in consideration of the completion and perpetual and efficient operation of the laihvay and that means forever. Mr. Boucher (eels. There's nothing in Ihere about the railway being allowed to .ilnimion branch lines it claims are unprofitable, so CP Hail's applications now on file with the Canadian Transport Commission and which could be dealt with by the CTC after a government im- posed freeze on abandonment applications runs out at the end of this year, unless the government comes up with different ground rules in the meantime are nothing short of outrageous. Mr. Boucher growls. Mr. Boucher's sidekick, Charlie Matkin. vice president of the Magrath chamber and almost as ardent an anti-CP man as Harold himself, agrees. It's tough to figure how much Mr. Boucher's campaign which has cost the Magrath chamber more than to wage is swaying the Ottawa decision makers. But it's interesting that the last time a top CP executive from Win- nipeg met Harold face to face he stepped back and told Mr. Boucher, "We know all about you." Mr. Boucher chuckles when he thinks of it. Those bigwigs are actually talk- ing about him in the CP Rail board room. How about that! And more than once a Calgary- based CP Rail public relations man has told me he couldn't comment on this or that or some other thing lor fear "the Harold Bouchers" might snaffle onto the comment and turn it against the railway somehow, Mr. Boucher says Otto Lang, federal minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, "once told me I didn't have the facts. But I don't think much of him. I think he's been brainwashed by the railroads and he's too busy to dig into this thing." Mr. Boucher says he's prepared argue the economics of rural low- density rail branch lines with just about anybody. But economics aside, he feels CP Rail, as the cor- porate son of Canadian Pacific Ltd. which is in turn the grandson of the original Canadian Pacific Railway ;