Category Archives for "Press Releases and Open Letters"

Oct 07

Bear Train Refined Business Plan Submitted to Transport Canada – Media Release

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Northern Ontario , Press Releases and Open Letters

Our affiliate, the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains (CAPT) issued the following media release regarding exciting news about the Bear Train.


On Friday, October 4, 2019, Chief Jason Gauthier, Chief of Missanabie Cree First Nation sent to Deputy Minister Michael Keenan a newly completed business plan for the proposed Mask-wa Oo-ta-ban (Cree for Bear Train) passenger service between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst. This third iteration of the business plan is more thorough, detailed and complete than the previous ones presented to Transport Canada. All of the many stakeholder groups from the Algoma rail corridor as well as several rail experts were consulted and contributed to the final version of the plan.

 This detailed business plan will illustrate to Transport Canada that Missanabie Cree First Nation (MCFN) has now completed the requirements to ensure the operation of this essential service.  The other requirements that they had previously successfully accomplished are:

      i.       Receipt of a Railway Operating Certificate

     ii.       Completion of a safety plan

The plan indicates how operational funding for the Bear Train from Transport Canada, that decreases over a period of five years, will be an excellent investment in at least three ways. It is a very low-cost way for the Federal Government to achieve a triple win by contributing to its objectives:

                           i.        Contribute to Reconciliation with Indigenous people

                          ii.        Mitigate Climate Change

                         iii.        Support Economic Development & increase employment 

Contribute to Reconciliation with Indigenous people

The Bear Train initiative is an opportunity for the Federal government to help correct the unjust acquisition of land and building of the ACR by ensuring that the passenger train service becomes essential transportation infrastructure for regional economic development of the First Nations through whose traditional territories it passes. It puts the MCFN in the leadership, managerial role for an important regional service that was previously an instrument of their colonization–an essential service for the local Indigenous, Anglophone and Francophone communities.    

Mitigate Climate Change

For Canada to meet the GHG reductions set out by the Paris Accord, Canadians are encouraged to opt for less polluting forms of transportation.  Since there are no roads into this rail corridor float plane travel is the only alternative to passenger rail since the Algoma passenger train service ended in 2015. Much of the environmental tourism market has been lost for the tourism resorts some of which can now only be accessed by float planes—a very polluting form of transportation.

Support Economic Development and increase employment, particularly for Indigenous Canadians

The Algoma Central Railway (ACR) corridor passes through the traditional territories of at least three First Nations between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst, including Constance Lake First Nation and Michipicoten First Nation.  These traditional territories have been used for many generations by First Nations for hunting, fishing, trapping and other socio-cultural activities. More recently these have become areas in which First Nations are developing eco and Indigenous tourism businesses, as well as forest management plans and other resource-based undertakings.

The Mask-wa Oo-ta-ban initiative is an opportunity for the Federal government to help to ensure that the passenger service plays its important role as essential transportation infrastructure for the regional economic development of the First Nations through whose territories its passes as well as for the local Anglophone and Francophone communities.    .

Mask-wa Oo-ta-ban (the Bear Train) is an economic development initiative of the Missanabie Cree First Nation to re-establish the essential passenger service from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst to support the economic, employment, social and remote access needs of the First Nations, communities, residents, businesses and socio-economic stakeholders of the Algoma passenger train corridor.  The Algoma region is a distressed area for employment and economic opportunity.  The $40-$50 million in economic benefits (BDO, 2014) and the 100s of jobs the passenger train supported directly and indirectly are vital to the Algoma region’s economic sustainability—particularly in the tourism sector.  This employment is particularly needed by the Indigenous people of our region whose rates of unemployment are significantly higher than the rest of the population.

One of the principal forms of economic development that this train supports is tourism—particularly the growing niche markets of Indigenous tourism, eco-green tourism, accessible tourism and Francophone tourism. As Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie Melanie Joly recently stated, “Tourism is an inclusive sector that showcases Canada’s culture, diversity, natural beauty and unique experiences to the world.  It delivers economic benefits across the country by supporting one in ten jobs.” 

Over $50 million in annual economic benefits that came from the Algoma passenger train has been lost since the service stopped in 2015. We urge Transport Canada to end this loss by funding the Bear Train for the next five years according to the Bear Train Business Plan plan.

Sep 09

“Ideas in Motion” 2019 Policy Briefings for Federal Election

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Northern Ontario , Press Releases and Open Letters

The Transport Action family, under the leadership of the national organization, Transport Action Canada, has issued several one-page policy briefings on critical transportation issues. These have been delivered to all federal parties.

Several of these are very relevant to transportation in Ontario. These are

  • Policy Support for Passenger Rail
  • Rebuilding a National Network (pertains to motor coach network)
  • Southwestern Ontario Rail and Bus

The briefings can be viewed here: https://www.transportaction.ca/documents/policy-briefings/

Jul 23

Letter to Minister Mulroney – Rail and Bus Transportation Plan for Southwestern Ontario

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Press Releases and Open Letters

Ontario’s Budget 2019 confirmed that the Province is actively exploring opportunities in Southwestern Ontario to enhance passenger train speeds and service levels on existing railway corridors, as well as opportunities for inter-community bus services or other transit solutions that better support the immediate public transportation needs of the region. A transportation plan will be brought forward by fall, 2019.

Transport Action Ontario (TAO) strongly supports this new approach. We have long advocated for High Performance Rail (HPR) – incremental improvement of passenger rail service on existing corridors, plus improved bus feeder service. Various meetings on this topic were held earlier this year by TAO and affiliated organizations with then Transportation Minister Yurek and his staff.

With the appointment of a new Minister, the Hon. Caroline Mulroney, TAO took the opportunity to update her and her staff on our thinking for this upcoming plan. Our letter to the Minister summarized the need for a robust public transportation option, the available technical reports on HPR, the need to include VIA Rail Canada and the Federal Government in the study, and key next steps including specific service scenarios that should be studied.

Our letter to Minister Mulroney can be viewed here:

We also sent the Minister a Policy Briefing prepared by Transport Action Canada on Southwestern Ontario Rail and Bus.

Jun 25

Transport Action Welcomes VIA HFR Announcement

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Press Releases and Open Letters

The following announcement was made today, June 25, 2019, by our parent organization, Transport Action Canada.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Transport Action Canada Welcomes VIA HFR Announcement
Today, the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Cynthia Garneau, VIA Rail Canada President and CEOfficer, andPierre Lavallée, Canada Infrastructure Bank President and CEO announced a total of $71.1 million in funding to further explore VIA Rail Canada’s proposal for High Frequency Rail in the Quebec City- Toronto corridor.

Transport Action Canada welcomes the announcement of $71.1 million by the Canada Infrastructure Bank and the Government of Canada to complete diligence work on VIA Rail’s High Frequency Rail project.

While we would clearly like to see the High Frequency Rail project move forward as swiftly as possible, we’re very pleased to see that the vital question of ensuring interoperability with REM (Réseau Express Métropolitain) and access to Montreal’s Mount Royal Tunnel is going to be addressed. We are confident that an engineering solution will be relatively straightforward now that the political will to make this work has been confirmed, ensuring that Montreal will enjoy both better transit and enhanced inter city connections.  

Thanks to VIA Rail’s choice of making best use of existing rail corridors and extant rights of way, the project completion risk for High Frequency Rail is much lower than any previous Quebec-Windsor upgrade proposal and many transit projects. We hope this will allow the remaining diligence to be completed swiftly, and for the work to proceed on the first sections of the new route in time for the arrival of the new corridor fleet in 2022.

The largest risk, which we feel the government needs to pay more attention to, is the escalating opportunity cost to Canada of falling further behind the rest of the world on this vital aspect of our transportation infrastructure. Infrequent and inadequate inter city rail service both is a constraint on our domestic economic growth and a deterrent to international investors. 

About Transport Action Canada
Transport Action Canada, founded as Transport 2000 Canada in 1977, is the nation’s leading citizen transportation advocacy group. We are a non-profit, consumer-based organization that promotes through advocacy and education, and represents the interests of consumers or users of public transport services in Canada.

Apr 07

Cost-Effective Surface Subway for Scarborough – “Smart Spur”

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Press Releases and Open Letters , Urban Transit

As many readers will know, transit planning in Toronto took a turn in March with the Province releasing two letters on its priority transit expansion projects.  This included revising the one-stop Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE) to three stops.  Clearly this change in direction will require study, causing impacts to schedule and cost.

Transport Action Ontario has long expressed concerns about the SSE.  We have long advocated that the Province study “Smart Spur”, a new electrified GO line branching east from the existing GO Stouffville corridor, as a cost-effective alternative with many advantages.

As studies on the SSE are apparently being reopened, we took the opportunity to remind the Province of the Smart Spur alternative. 

Our open letter of April 3, 2019 can be viewed here TAO-SmartSpur2019-04

Smart Spur was originally proposed in our 2013 report on Regional Express Rail  

 

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