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Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird calls for new leadership at Via Rail

VIA Rail's Steve Del Bosco is pictured on a Toronto-bound train February 27, 2006. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Harris

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VIA Rail's Steve Del Bosco is pictured on a Toronto-bound train February 27, 2006. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Harris

OTTAWA - A high profile federal cabinet minister is calling for new leadership at Via Rail.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird made the call on Twitter Thursday night by saying he has lost confidence in the acting head of the Crown Corporation, Steve Del Bosco.

A government source says Baird, an Ottawa-area M-P, has long been annoyed with how Via Rail has been communicating with the public on issues like technical problems with safety equipment at rail crossings.

The source says the final straw for Baird came this week when Via Rail mistakenly accused local Ottawa transit buses of causing a signal malfunction at a crossing near his home.

Local media outlets quoted Via as subsequently saying the problems were of a technical nature with the crossing lights.

The source says Baird has expressed his concerns to both Del Bosco and to the minister responsible for Via — Transport Minister Lisa Raitt.

A spokeswoman for Raitt said more will be expected from Via going forward. Via had no comment.

Del Bosco has worked for the railway since 1978 and was named interim president and CEO of Via earlier this year.

Last year, six people died in a collision between a Via Rail train and a city transit bus at a crossing in the Ottawa-area, though investigators have indicated the crossing lights and gates were in good working order.

In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Baird said people in the area nonetheless remain uneasy about safety at rail crossings and Via has failed to do enough to ease concerns.

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