Letter – Will Promises be Kept, return of passenger rail from Toronto to Cochrane

MPPs return to Queen’s Park on Tuesday, February 19 and budget day should be soon after. The question northerners are asking – is the $45 million promised by the PCs for the return of passenger rail service from Toronto to Cochrane in the budget??

Will Premier Ford keep his promise? Will Vic Fedeli keep his promise?

The Northeastern Ontario Rail Network advocacy group (NEORN.ca) continues to pursue its commitment to connect northern Ontario by rail. The reasons for this much-needed service haven’t changed: reliable, efficient and practical regional transportation for medium to long distances (especially during the winter months), safest and most accessible transportation for people with challenges due to ability, age and financial affordability and more environmentally responsible.

In fact, the reasons for passenger rail service are growing with the recent announcement of communities exploring the Northern Ontario immigration Nominee Program as a key to attracting newcomers to the North. This newcomer population will want to be connected to friends and families in southern Ontario and passenger rail can play a big part in lessening the isolation newcomers might feel.

The Ford government is spending $3.4Billion in capital expenditures for Metrolinx (2017/2018) in southern Ontario for GTHA transit service, GO and UPX.

Northern Ontario deserves public investment in passenger rail transportation as well.

It is ironic that Government of Ontario continues to pay $17Million to support the Polar Bear Express from Cochrane to Moosonee when in fact that line clearly qualifies for the Federal Remote Passenger Rail Program funding. With Federal government funding instead, those provincial $$ could be reallocated to support other passenger rail initiatives in northern Ontario.

NEORN advocates have recently met with the Liam O’Brien, Director of Policy for the Minister of Transportation to discuss a number of these issues. Other meetings included John Vanthof, NDP MPP, Andy Mitchell, President UNIFOR 103, Anthony Rota, MP, along with a variety of individuals at Ontario Northland. Our advocacy continues!

A budget that includes both the funding and mandate for Ontario Northland to return passenger rail service from Toronto to Cochrane as soon as possible would be well received by the municipal councils in northern Ontario who all formally supported this ever since the service was cancelled in the fall of 2012. The train service means economic development and tourism dollars, along with the simple fact that passenger train service would make it easier for travellers all year long!

Lucille Frith & Howie Wilcox      NEORN Co-Chairs