A few months ago, I wished to travel to Ottawa from Sudbury. Greyhound offers only one bus a day, leaving at 12:30 am. The trip takes seven hours and one arrives in Ottawa sleepy after a night's bus ride and grubby, arriving at a time that is inconvenient to check into a hotel. If one wants to go to North Bay, 120 kilometers to the east of Sudbury, one must take the same bus, arriving at 2:10 am. Greyhound offers just one bus per day from Sudbury to Toronto, again an overnight adventure. One gets the feeling that Greyhound wants to get out of inter-city bus transportation in Northern Ontario completely. Ontario Northland, owned by the Government of Ontario, provides somewhat better service, offering a trip to Ottawa during the day and three trips to Toronto. The fact remains that if you don't have access to a car, getting around Northern Ontario, especially to and from the smaller communities and First Nations, is difficult.
This level of transportation is unacceptable in a modern society. Communication and transportation are vital to the functioning of modern society and of individuals within it. I have trouble with the way decisions are made in Ontario with respect to the services provided which are guided by schemes to pay the rich. Billions are being promised in this election campaign to extend Toronto's subway but the transportation needs of the north are neglected. Clearly, private interests do not make money by looking after the infrastructure of the north. Furthermore, provincial funding formulas that are based on the large populations and relatively small areas do not work in the north which has a small population but a large area. Northern Ontario needs a modern, integrated transportation system that is designed to serve the transportation needs of the people of the north.
One sign of hope is the recent decision of Ontario
inaugurate a twice daily bus service between Sudbury and a number of
communities on Manitoulin Island. This service,
while limited, provides transportation between various Manitoulin
communities and between those communities and Sudbury. In my opinion,
the people of Northern Ontario must be active
in this election period and after to obtain the public transportation
services that we need. We cannot rely on the major political parties to
provide these services for us.
Closure of Sudbury-Soo Rail Line Threatened
Genesee & Wyoming Canada Inc., which operates the Huron Central Railroad connecting Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie under lease from the CPR, is threatening to close the line unless they receive financial support from the federal and provincial governments. They are demanding $4 million per year for five years to pay for upgrades to the railway to meet new federal safety standards. Huron Central mainly serves Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, the Domtar pulp and paper mill in Espanola and the EACOM sawmill in Nairn Centre, supporting 7,000 industrial jobs.
"Many of our key customers rely on the railway as the
transportation option," noted Louis Gravel, president of Genesee &
Wyoming Canada Inc. "Closure of the
railway eliminates the potential for regional economic development
opportunities in the North, along with other public benefits, including
reduction in pollution levels and road maintenance
costs, as transport trucks will fill the gap left behind."
Closure of the railway will put an additional 30,000 transport truck loads per year on Highway 17 which is already insufficient to meet the transportation needs of a modern society. Highway 17 is the scene of regular accidents involving tractor trailers, too many causing death, and needs upgrading. Construction of a four-lane limited access highway between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie will cost in excess of a billion dollars.
Closure of the Huron Central Railroad also throws a
wrench in the
spokes of the plan of the North Eastern Ontario Rail Network (NEORN) to
re-introduce passenger rail service to
northeastern Ontario. It the rails are removed, this will leave a huge
gap in the rail network and effectively prevent a large part of the
proposed passenger rail service in northeastern
Genessee & Wyoming, which operates nine short track and local freight rail lines in four provinces, is, in effect, blackmailing the federal and provincial governments to pay the rich and assure their profits or they will close shop and leave northeastern Ontario high and dry.
Why should the working people of Northern Ontario and the whole of Ontario accede to blackmail? Genessee & Wyoming's threats to close operations if the province does not guarantee their profits, reveal the need for an economy based on the needs of human beings, not the rich. When fulfilling human needs is the aim of an economy, decisions are not made on a self-serving basis and those making the decisions do not submit to blackmail. A public system run efficiently by the workers themselves is required and the money is definitely there for it based on the wealth the workers of the province produce. But the alternatives available are not discussed because the issue becomes one of which party government will submit to the blackmail versus those who remain silent. The people, on the other hand, cannot remain silent because they need these services. This blackmail should be rejected.
If the Huron Central Railway is not economically viable
& Wyoming, its value is essentially nil or scrap to them. It is,
however, very important to the people of
northeastern Ontario both in providing freight services and in the
restoration of passenger rail services. If the Genessee & Wyoming
capitalists are willing to destroy vital means of
production, in this case transportation, the working people have the
option of bringing the Huron Central Railway under public control and
operating it to serve the transportation needs of
the people and industries of Northern Ontario. During and after this
election campaign, the working people should actively discuss these
issues and a pro-people solution to them and not be
limited to the solutions of paying the rich offered by the parties of
Justice for Injured Workers Bike Ride
Four Days of Activities in Support of Injured Workers
The Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups is
organizing four days of activities in northeastern Ontario this
weekend, May 25-28, to bring attention to their Workers' Comp Is a Right! Campaign.
Peter Page, Executive Vice-President of the ONIWG and
spokesperson for the ONIWG Bike Ride Committee, will be available for
interviews to discuss these activities and the goals of the ONIWG,
especially in light of the current provincial election, throughout
these four days. To arrange an interview, contact Peter Page
(preferred) at Email: email@example.com or Phone: 905-745-1003 or
contact David Starbuck (alternate) at Email:
firstname.lastname@example.org or Phone: 705-207-1133.
All are welcome to participate in any or all of these activities, see events listings below. For further information, click here. The activities culminate with Injured Workers' Day on June 1 at Queen's Park in Toronto.
(Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups, May 24, 2018)
Public Meeting to Organize a Sudbury
Injured Workers' Group
Read Ontario Political Forum