VIA Rail coast-to-coast passenger service under threat in new report

(OTTAWA) March 10, 2016 – Trans-Canada passenger rail service under threat again, and the Green Party of Canada is urging the Liberal government to follow through on commitments to keep VIA Rail’s Toronto-to-Vancouver train running.

Yesterday in Question Period, Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, put the question to Transport Minister Marc Garneau on the future of VIA’s Canadian transcontinental passenger train:

“The previous minister of transportation convened a panel chaired by former cabinet minister David Emerson, and it has now reported. Shockingly, it recommends that the Liberal government kill passenger rail service between Toronto and Vancouver. This trans-continental train, the Canadian, is an essential part of Sir John A. Macdonald’s national dream,” Ms. May said.

In response, Mr. Garneau committed to retaining coast-to-coast passenger rail service, but the question of VIA Rail funding remains, said Bruce Hyer, Green Party Deputy Leader.

“The Liberals have a critical choice to make for passenger rail in Canada: whether to repair the damage of a thousand funding cuts over many decades by previous governments, or to allow integral passenger rail service to continue to decline,” Mr. Hyer said.

“Canada is the only developed country in the world that is not investing in enhanced passenger rail services. Indeed, we are the only country in the world that has no national rail strategy at all,” Mr. Hyer said.

“The Liberals have a clear litmus test before them. I am today asking Thunder Bay MP and Minister Patty Hajdu to fight for our Canadian, which runs through Longlac and Armstrong in her riding, and then also seek the return on the passenger train through Thunder Bay. I ask for this commitment on behalf of North Shore seniors, students, First Nations people, and also on behalf of our natural environment. Trains are the safest, most dependable in bad winter weather, and far and away have the lowest emissions of CO2 of any land or air transport,” Mr. Hyer concluded.

Ms. May added: “The Emerson report points out that U.S.-owned Amtrak operates under its own legislation. But rather than recommend Canada legislate to protect VIA Rail’s mandate, the Emerson report exploits that weakness to call for killing transcontinental service and ending support for the Toronto-to-Vancouver VIA service. This is unacceptable, and I call on the Liberal government to reject this short-sighted recommendation.”

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