John Vanthof, MPP for Timiskaming-Cochrane riding, urged the government of Kathleen Wynne to restart passenger rail service in northeastern Ontario by bringing back the Ontario Northlander which was cut abruptly by her predecessor Premier Dalton McGuinty in 2012.
Vanthof, whose Timiskaming-Cochrane riding runs from North of Cochrane to south of Temiskaming Shores and Cobalt, stood up in the Ontario Legislature on Monday to demand passenger rail service be restored.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to inform the House that the government is currently wrapping up the consultation part of the northern Ontario multi-modal transportation study, “ Vanthof said. “Since this consultation wasn’t held in my riding and I have been unable to attend meetings outside my riding, I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about it here.”
“Some of the things they’re talking about are rail, road, air and marine,” Vanthof added. “I’d like to thank them for taking the time to consult because, when our only passenger train in northeastern Ontario was cut by the Liberal government five years ago, there was absolutely no consultation — none.”
“So I’d like to put on record, on behalf of the residents of northeastern Ontario,” continued Vanthof, “that we need to look at bringing back some type of passenger rail service because, the way it is now, the only public transportation service to northeastern Ontario is the bus.”
When the cuts to the ONR passenger rail were made by the McGuinty government it came with a promise to improve bus routes. But over the last two years service to the bus route has been cut in the northeast.
“There are a lot of people who cannot take the night bus,” Vanthof said. “For seniors and people with medical conditions, bus travel is almost impossible.”
The solution, Vanthof maintained, is to bring back some sort of rail service.
“It’s time to look at bringing back some type of viable rail service to northeast Ontario,” Vanthof insisted. “Especially from a government that claims to be spending all this time and money talking about increased public transportation. “
Vanthof pointed to the irony of the Liberal government touting rail passenger service as the solution to a host of problems including taking cars off the road and reducing green house gas emissions. But for some reason the Liberals do not consider Ontario’s north east as part of that solution
“Our part of the world needs it as well,” Vanthof emphasized. “If you want to develop northern Ontario, people need to know that they have public transportation that is viable not only for themselves but for their children, for their parents and their grandparents. Bring back the train.”