On March 3, 2014, NDP MP Olivia Chow introduced Bill C-577, an Act respecting VIA Rail Canada.  This private member’s bill is comprehensive.  It requires the maintenance of VIA’s route system prior to the 2012 cuts, it gives VIA trains scheduling and operational preference over freight services, adds resolution protocols if disputes between VIA and other railways, requires public consultation, and more.  It is an encouraging first step to meeting a pressing need for a national passenger rail act in Canada.

The act can be viewed here</>

 

Olivia Chow had reached out to Transport Action Ontario (TAO) last fall and asked us to comment on earlier drafts of this Bill.  We engaged our colleague Greg Gormick, independent consultant, for this work.   Greg is extremely knowledgeable in this area and we felt he would have valuable comments.   Greg produced two memos, one for each draft of the bill, in November and December, 2013, which were forwarded to Olivia Chow and her staff.

There are several points that Greg raised that did not make it into the final draft and they should be out for discussion.  Therefore, in the interest of assembling a complete file, Transport Action Ontario is including those two memos in this post.  They can be viewed here:

 

TAO-NDP VIA Rail Canada Act Draft2 Review 131212

TAO-NDP VIA Rail Canada Act Draft1 Review 131129

 

There was one item in Greg’s December memo that raised some controversy within TAO.  This was with regards to the relocation of VIA’s headquarters out of Montreal.  We wish to clarify that this opinion was based on a statement in the cited government report, and does not reflect the position of TAO.   TAO has no position on where the headquarters of VIA should or should not be located.

Transport Action Ontario is very supportive of this Bill.  We have long been concerned that VIA Rail merely exists as a Standing Order in Council and requires legislated rights, obligations, objectives and budgets similar to Amtrak in the USA.  However, we are aware that other attempts to legislate on behalf of VIA Rail have been unsuccessful.
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