Instead of passenger train, take these roads Minister of Transport suggests

Photos courtesy : Maureen Elgie & Dawne Cunningham

Last week while in Sault Ste. Marie, Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau revoked the support of a subsidy for $5.3 million for passenger rail service.

Garneau told reporters that, “Most of the communities between the Sault and Hearst have other alternate ways of accessing highways.” Garneau said, “We have to reserve funding for where railways are the only way to move around.”

north ontario roadsGarneau may want to improve the roads he’s talking about.

Today, Northern & Eastern Ontario Rail Network (NEORN) issued a media release and photos of the roads that Garneau was referring to.

The federal government’s recent decision to once again revoke the annual funding of the Algoma Central passenger train service between Sault-Ste-Marie & Hearst is a clear indication of the level of inequality between urban & remote transportation priorities in Canada.

All levels of government in Canada invest billions of dollars annually in public transportation infrastructure & services throughout the country. VIA Rail Canada, the nation’s ocial intercity neorn statspassenger rail carrier, received 317.1 million dollars in operating funding & 80.9 million dollars in capital funding from the federal government in 2014. Metrolinx receives two billion dollars in base annual funding from the province. This crown corporation of the province of Ontario also benefits from an additional one to two billion dollars in combined funding from the federal & provincial government.

Unfair treatment to Northern Ontarians Northern Ontarians are however being held to a different standard than other Southern Ontarian & Canadian counterparts. Despite a collaborative effort by the various municipal & First Nations stakeholders of the Algoma Central working group to develop a not-for-profit transportation authority, the federal government is refusing to fund intercity passenger rail services between Sault Ste Marie, Hawk Junction & Hearst like it does throughout the rest of the country. Without any prior public consultation, the government eliminated the 2.2 million dollars of funding allocated to the Algoma Central once in 2014, and now for a second time in 2016.

Sand Lake Road
Sand Lake Road

Previously in 2012, the provincial government eliminated the Northlander between Toronto, North Bay & Cochrane. Similarly to the Algoma Central, the stakeholders of the region were not consulted when the province decided to eliminate the 11 million dollars that were dedicated annually to the operation of this essential intercity passenger train service.

In addition, VIA Rail’s own vision plan for 2016 to 2020 calls for a further reduction in service of the Canadian passenger train; rerouted between Sudbury, Chapleau, Thunder Bay, Dryden & Winnipeg. There is also no mention of a replacement train service between Capreol, Hornepayne, Longlac, Sioux Lookout & Winnipeg.

Train service essential to the region

As demonstrated in the NEORN’s submission to the Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Study (NOMTS) earlier this month (available here :, Northern Ontario has a road network that is increasingly fragile due to climate change, natural disasters & automobile collisions. Between 2011 & 2014, the Northeastern portion of the province experienced a total of 674 highway closures. With the lack of a grid-like road network as found in Southern Ontario, residents & travelers are simply unable to circumvent road closures due to accidents, weather related incidents, forest res, oods and in some instances, sink holes. As a consequence for a lack of road-based transportation alternatives, Northern Ontario communities are left with little to no transportation options when disaster strikes.

The current state of inequality between rural/remote & urban transportation infrastructure is unacceptable in a supposedly developed nation like Canada. As a result, residents of this region are faced with many barriers to employment, education, and access to health care.

Northern Ontario has a network of approximately 6,000 kilometres of rail interlinking a signifcant portion of municipalities and First Nations throughout the region on which passenger train service can be reinstated. There are a number of economic, environmental, practical, social and health factors that contribute to the importance of frequent and reliable passenger train service for communities, businesses and visitors looking to explore and travel great distances throughout the Cambrian Shield.

Utilizing the existing rail corridor infrastructure, the federal & provincial governments must provide equitable funding in passenger trains & corresponding motor coach / marine services in Northern Ontario. The federal government must also halt any current or future  abandonment of rail corridors.

Transportation of minerals by rail is up to seven times more fuel ecient per ton/mile than by transport truck. Failure to maintain & preserve rail corridors like the Algoma Central will result in a lost opportunity for economic & environmentally sustainable modes of transportation for
current & future resource extraction (example : the Ring of Fire).

Many communities located along the Algoma Central Railway have no publicly maintained or industrial bush road access.

Photos courtesy: Maureen Elgie & Dawne Cunningham
NEORN Website:



  1. Reality check ACR passenger service never made any money relied on the subsidy.Claims of 38 million into the local economy.If this was true why then those who made millions did not invest in the train service?
    Marc Garneau,obviously looked at that info and made a decision to cut the funding.Where is Terry on this issue, he should have fought to keep the millions going to the camp operators lol .

  2. More proof, as if it were needed, of the governments lack of contact with the real world. They say shit without any amount of thought simply to shut the public up. Far more votes in southern Ontario than in northern Ontario so the south is high priority.

  3. Marc Garneau was only elected as a figurehead because of his space travels.. To suggest Joe average should use these roads merely points out how out of touch he is with the world he is supposed to represent… His body may be on Earth but his head is definitely in outer space…. C’mon Sheehan, get your butt in gear and do some of what you were elected to do… Take Garneau for a ride on some of these roads…What an Airhead…

    • it has always been a bit of a joke that properties along the ACR have to pay school taxes, despite the fact that commuting to and from a school along the line was not even possible on a daily basis. Children from remote communities would board in the Soo and travel home to see family on the weekend. I know a student who has not been home to see family in 1.5 years because the train no longer runs. Don’t taxpayers have a right to access education and health care, especially if they have paid taxes for a century on these properties? Hasn’t a precedent been set? How does the government justify cutting funding for transportation to these regions and spend $3.5M to pave a recreational trail in Southern Ontario that has a road (with bike lanes) and sidewalk right next to it?

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