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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Michael Ignatieff on Vancouver Canada Line on day Greyhound wants bus service cuts in Manitoba

As a federal election becomes a distinct possibility for this fall, Liberal Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff arrived in Vancouver Thursday taking the Sky Train on the city's newly opened Canada Line into downtown Vancouver. The symbolism can't be missed as the Canada Line was originally an initative of the former Liberal government, and Mr. Ignatieff addresses transportation policy in his new book, True Patriot Love.



His Sky Train ride came on the same day that Greyhound Bus Lines announced its plans to eliminate service in Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario saying it simply can't afford to provide the service any longer. Greyhound is also reducing service in parts of rural British Columbia.



National transportation should really be a major election issue, given that for the past 20 years at least, nobody seems to have wanted to talk about it. For example, when I left Chapleau, Ontario, about 20 years ago, which is on the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, there was a daily transcontinental Via Rail train serving the community. Heading west the train passed through small Northern Ontario communities like Marathon, White River, Schreiber, Terrace Bay, Nipigon to Thunder Bay, then on to Kenora and Winnipeg, and across the Prairies to British Columbia. Eastbound it went to Sudbury, where it was split, one section heading off to North Bay and Montreal, or to Toronto. In fact, this is the national railway that John A. Macdonald had built to create Canada! Today there is no passenger service to speak of on the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks across Canada. A Budd Car runs from Sudbury to White River three days a week.



Via Rail does run a part-time passenger service from Vancouver to Montreal on the Canadian National Railway tracks through Edmonton to Saskatoon and Winnipeg and then across a vast relatively unpopulated area to Sudbury. It boggles my mind when I think that Calgary and Regina for example do not have daily transcontinental passenger train service.



Chapleau no longer even has bus service and it looks like rural Canadian communities are going to become even more isolated than they are now if Greyhound cuts its service as announced.



The turn back the clock and accept the status quo mentality that permeates municipal, provincial and federal goverments in Canada has to end. They need to be jolted into accepting that we face new realities because of their failure to properly serve the people who put them into office over the past 20 years and longer.



One place to start is with a national transportation policy equivalent to the vision that Sir John A. and the founders of Canada had in the 19th century.



In his book Mr. Ignatieff writes about the success of high speed passenger trains in Europe but in Canada studies have been done for 50 years on high speed between Vancouver and Calgary, Windsor to Quebec City and Calgary to Edmonton. Nothing happened. He suggests that if we are really nation builders we would start on them now. I agree with Mr. Ignatieff, and suggest that if he becomes prime minister he look at rural Canada and the needs of the people who live there too.



1 comment:

Michael J said...

Raoul wrote

Good write up Mike. I'm anxious to read that book...lol

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
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