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MacDonald Not Celebrating Date As Suspension Gains Opposition

Tuesday May 19, marked engineer Wesley MacDonald's 42nd year of employment with CN, but there was no celebration, private or otherwise.

Mr. MacDonald is still under suspension by CN following a March 19 derailment outside of Bathurst.

``I sit there looking at the floor a lot...I'll never get over it,'' said the 59-year old engineer, who has been nominated for a medal of bravery, despite the suspension.

Mr. MacDonald's name was submitted to the Chancellery of Canadian Orders and Decorations in Ottawa, in view of his having stayed with a runaway train that eventually derailed at 70 miles per hour. He stayed aboard because he was concerned for the safety of anyone who might have been near any of the three level crossings the train had to go over.

In a brief interview Tuesday, Mr. MacDonald said he was glad someone appreciated what he did, although he has no idea who submitted his name to the Chancellery.

``It was a big surprise,'' said Mr. MacDonald, who dulls the sting of his six-month suspension with fishing trips upriver.

He has yet to hear any word from his union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, which is supposed to grieve his suspension. He suspects they are waiting for the results of the Federal Railway Transport Committee's investigation, expected to be released next month.

In the meantime, Mr. MacDonald has seen Bathurst Mayor Doug Williamson go to bat for him, unasked.

In a letter dated May 12, the mayor wrote CN's regional public affairs manager Bob Hest in Moncton, protesting the engineer's suspension.

``No one is attacking management's right to discipline. However, you will never convince the general public that your decision was fair,'' wrote Mayor Williamson, noting Mr. MacDonald's record of service with CN ``has been a good one.''

``The six-month suspension your company exacted on him was unjust and cruel punishment, at a time when his last service years before his retirement are the basis used for his pension when he retired.''

Mr. MacDonald is scheduled to retire later this year. CN is not publicly commenting on the suspension now as they consider it an internal matter. However, there are indications CN might release a statement after the RTC investigation becomes public.

CN has also conducted an investigation into the Bathurst derailment.

Mr. MacDonald said Gloucester MP Roger Clinch is also becoming involved, having told Mr. MacDonald he will discuss the circumstances of the derailment with the president of CN.