It is now evident that Trudeau’s government is on par with previous ones in disrespecting Northern Ontario. The decision of Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, to withdraw an available $5.3 million over 3 years to re-start the Algoma Central Railway (ACR) passenger train, shows that voters in large urban centres remain the Liberals’ first priority.
Despite the hard work of community stakeholders to return passenger rail between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst, despite the legitimate access needs of residents, traditional First Nations peoples, and tourist businesses along the line, and despite the leadership of Missanabie Cree First Nation to provide train service, the federal government has dismissed those voices, claiming the ACR line does not classify as “remote” enough.
Garneau’s decision reflects a high level of incompetence with this file. One would think that a former astronaut would have a better grasp of geography and climate. Trains are the safest form of travel, particularly across the rugged North in the winter, and are the last way to travel when other modes are stopped by weather. Further, Garneau is incorrect that there is highway access for “most” communities along the ACR. Some of the road systems he refers to are actually private logging roads that can be dangerous and have access arbitrarily ended by their owners.
A second level of Garneau’s incompetence relates to the economy. A 2015 BDO Canada study found that the ACR generates between $28 and $38 million in regional economic activity a year. For less than $2 million per year for three years, the government’s revoking of funding has not only hurt local businesses but given up further streams of tax revenue that could be re-invested. Such shortsightedness in financial circles would see the one who made that decision fired. Unfortunately, we lack that immediate option.
Some $850 million has been allocated by Trudeau for Toronto transit and the North is rebuffed when asking for a fraction of that – of what is actually our money. While businesses along the ACR are forced to cancel visits by tourists, Trudeau has invited Prince William and family to come to Canada, an invitation that when made by Canada means we have to pay the cost of travel and security (estimated at several million). A millionaire PM gets time with one of the world’s richest families, we pay for it, and apparently there is no money for the ACR train.
If you agree that the government’s decision on the ACR was wrong and unfair, contact the Prime Minister, your local MP, and the Minister of Transport. I have faith in the ACR group to eventually restore rail service but they shouldn’t be made to work this hard by such a government.
Iron Bridge, ON