“We need our damn train!”

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Carol Cuputo, Executive Director of the Algoma Kinniwabi Travel Association at podium, while Linda Savory Gordon listens on

It’s been three years since the last passenger train between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst and the economic impact to the area is mounting, according to the advocacy group , Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains.

The group held a press conference Friday morning at the Civic Centre to provide evidence to disprove Transport Canada & the Minister of Transport’s “erroneous claim” of existing public, safe and accessible alternative modes of transportation for people to reach destinations along the Algoma rail corridor and to show the economic impact the loss of the passenger train service has meant to the district.

“We need our damn train back!”, Carol Cuputo, Executive Director of the Algoma Kinniwabi Travel Association said to the crowd. Cuputo reported that businesses and lodges along the rail line have realized a drop of 80 percent in revenue since the service stopped operating in July 2015. In comparison Cuputo said tourism for fishing lodges is up 16 percent in the region, but down 80 percent for lodges along the rail line.

In a BDO report on the economic impact of the passenger train service between the south and north of the district translates into $38 to $48 million. 220 jobs and $5 million in loss tax revenues.

Stakeholders ask, what’s taking so long to restore the subsidy?

That news appears to be falling on deaf ears at the federal transportation ministry, believes a frustrated  Linda Savory Gordon CAPT member and spokesperson. ” on the economic impact, we refer to the mandate letter of Trudeau to Garneau (Minister of transportation) that they are to provide transportation to further economic development”  Savory Gordon said. The former Conservative government cancelled then re-instated the $2.2 million dollar subsidy in 2015 realizing the direct impact on communities and jobs. “Everything was in place but when the Liberals took over the federal government however has been slow to react to the situation.” She noted that MP Terry Sheehan campaigned on criticizing the Harper government for eliminating the subsidy in 2015″

“I’m just here to to make a plea , please Federal Government, please help me out as a business owner” Dean Anderson, owner of the Catalina Motel. Anderson claims his business has suffered losses since the tourism dollars stopped with the train being idle.

Anderson started a new package through his motel catering to Americans who would travel the train with their sled and travel back to the Sault using  the trail system. The tourism package grew his business substantially, but now it’s gone.

“with eight million visitors a year in the region , transportation and vitality of the tourism sector is key,” said David McLaughlin, executive director of Tourism Northern Ontario. “we’re very well equipped for visitors from Southern Ontario to come here by air, but once they get here other transportation methods are really quite limited”

Some in the crowd were critical of elected officials for not showing up to discuss the issue. “where’s our MP? Where’s Romano and the Mayor? why aren’t they here?” asked a woman in the crowd.

The group continues to lobby the government for quicker action and urges citizens to voice their opinion about the loss of service , the financial impact on the tourism sector and the job losses leading from the loss of the train service.

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Craig Huckerby
Craig Huckerby is a seasoned broadcast and media professional with over 35 years in local media. Starting in television, Craig became known as "the weather guy" on local television before pioneering internet media in the Sault. Craig is credited for bringing local television back to the Sault via the internet in 2003 with LTVNEWS.COM and was instrumental in launching SooNews.ca and Local2.ca. Craig is happy to be part of the Sault's newest media team and website, SaultOnline.com

10 COMMENTS

  1. I am in agreeance with Bri on this one. We seem to send millions to 3rd world countries or disaster relief, but here at home people go hungry, without homes or basic necessities. We helped alot of countries in the past, but now Canada needs help. Most Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque and have been for some time, barely enough to cover the cost of living. We need to invest back into Canada, as the current system is empowering poverty.

    • Moreso, Mr. Errington should be involved in subsidising the rail service. If this is impacting his bottom line, then some sort of agreeance should be met. Scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours kinda deal

  2. I love how the Liberals are to blame when the subsidy which was cancelled by Harper then put back in for a short time was cancelled by them again. Instead of blaming government how about blaming CN who is stopping as much passenger service as they can across the country! They don’t want to pay for the rail maintenance which is where that 2 million dollars comes into it. If they were to stop worrying about the millions of profit their Board Of Directors demand and help remote communities, we would have the train back. Instead they want it ” leased” to a company that will also pay for the rail maintenance.

  3. wow…looks like thousands of supporters showed up. Reality is, if only a handful care, they will not get what they want. This is a democracy…only so much to go around…do what is best for all, not cater to 12 or 13 people. And get rid of the BS demographics and economic impact reports….those numbers mean absolutely nothing…if they were real, the room would have been packed with people.

  4. This is about a handful of people that don’t like the fact that they have to take use an ATV to travel part way to their cottage.

    The Sault to Hearst route is accesable by car.

    Trudeau should spend money on helping people who don’t have a home… and not worry about those that whine about how difficult it is to get to their second home.

    • This is mainly about a few tourist operators that want everything for nothing, especially one, Mr. Errington that has not offered a red cent towards bringing the train back so he can amass more millions from milking the cash cows that the train delivers to his lodge, he’s real good at whining about it, though.
      It’s a massive money losing venture that no one in their right mind would want anything to do with. You can’t blame the government or anyone else for not wanting to throw good money down the crapper. The economic impact figures as mentioned above are as fake as Kim K’s rack. Quit beating a dead horse.

  5. Sadly, it seems so blatantly obvious that once justin’s liberals won the election, their primary focus was to undo everything that had been given the green light under the previous government. Things like cutting TFSA, less stronger rules on terrorism and the Soo-Hearst passenger train we’re on the hit list and to heck with any logic or rational to keeping them on track. These liberals made a decision to cancel this train funding because access was, according to Garneau and his gang, satisfactory to travel by vehicle, based on google maps. Seriously folks ??? We’ll see what Terry does to get this valuable train service up & running. I’m just not holding my breath.

  6. Is Terry Sheehan working on this problem? If not..he should be. Mr trudeau has a lot of money to hand out to other countries…how about a little to help out our friends on the rail lines.? Sure…it will likely never turn a profit…but it really is an essential service to many people.

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