ST. MARYS, ONTARIO – The election of Doug Ford’s majority Progressive Conservative (PC) government on June 7 is viewed as both good and bad news by the All Aboard St. Marys citizens’ rail action committee.
“The good news is there is a handful of MPPs in this government who have shown concern – if not taken action – regarding the accelerating deterioration of our rail passenger and intercity bus services,” says All Aboard St. Marys founder Chris West. “I’m thinking particularly of Interim Leader Vic Fedeli, who has always graciously and sincerely supported efforts to restore the rail passenger service to his hometown of North Bay and all the communities along the route of the Northlander, which the former Liberal government arbitrarily cancelled in 2012.”
Although there is this small group of PC members in the new government who have been verbally supportive of practical solutions to our increasingly dysfunctional transportation system, there are far more whose views and past actions concern All Aboard St. Marys.
Says West, “In order to deal with this situation, we have asked rail consultant and government policy advisor Greg Gormick to rejoin the All Aboard St. Marys team as our strategic policy advisor. Having completed five major rail studies for Oxford County, including his forthcoming SouthwestLynx: Integrated High-Performance Public Transportation for Southwestern Ontario, he has agreed to assist us. Greg’s unique knowledge of and experience in the rail industry, and his multiple dealings with all four provincial parties, will give us a clear edge in ensuring we know what’s going on at Queen’s Park and how we should deal with it.”
While Gormick has great admiration for MPP Vic Fedeli, he is wary of many others on the PC team and within the opposition parties. He dealt with Premier-Designate Ford on the GO Transit rail electrification issue at Toronto City Hall in 2011 and he recently had a brush with the incoming government through an assignment he undertook on behalf of newly-elected Milton MPP Parm Gill.
“The assignment was not just revealing, it was chilling,” says Gormick. “One of Gill’s supporters commissioned me to produce two backgrounders for public circulation during the election campaign regarding the constantly-delayed expansion of GO Milton rail service and the CN proposal to destroy valuable Milton agricultural land for an intermodal freight terminal.
“These backgrounders were quashed on orders from unknown officials in the PC Central Party Office; they never saw the light of day. One has to wonder why.”
Both of Greg’s suppressed backgrounders for the new MPP for Milton are attached to this release. (CLICK HERE TO VIEW)
Of some interest to All Aboard St. Marys is the presence of former Harper government cabinet minister John Baird on Ford’s transition team. He is currently serving as a director of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). This strikes us as a potential conflict of interest, as the CPR is a major supplier of trackage and other services to provincially-owned GO.
An overarching concern is the prehistoric transportation viewpoint expressed by Ford in the past when he and his late brother, Rob, set out to decimate Toronto’s streetcar system. They also unsuccessfully attempted to substitute unaffordable and totally unnecessary subways for every light rail transit (LRT) project then being proposed.
Says Gormick, “Our only glimmer of hope at the moment remains Vic Fedeli. He is a thoughtful and intelligent man who has tirelessly supported the efforts of our colleague, Eric Boutilier, the founder of All Aboard Northern Ontario, in his campaign to revive the Ontario Northland passenger service between Toronto, North Bay and Cochrane. Let’s hope he can influence and educate others within his party’s ranks.”
Unknown at this point is where the Ford government will stand on the former Liberal government’s pie-in-the-sky high-speed rail fantasy, which was the work of former Transportation Minister Glen Murray and a foreign-based consultant now on the provincial payroll. This scheme would destroy the current VIA Southwestern Ontario services at a public cost of more than $20 billion, at a bare minimum.
Says West, “We’re watching closely. As we have demonstrated previously, we won’t be reluctant to call out any negative moves or misguided policies enacted by the new government. They’re starting in a neutral position in our book and it will be up to them to decide whether they go up or down.”
**ARCHIVED FROM ALL ABOARD NORTHERN ONTARIO**