Northlander shutdown shows Liberals are clueless on the northern Ontario – by Peter Worthington (QMI Agency/Toronto Sun – September 14, 2012)

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TORONTO – Why do governments do what they do — especially when it makes no sense? In March, the McGuinty government announced that the rail service between Toronto and Cochrane would cease — that after Friday, Sept. 28, the Northlander would no longer service communities on the 700-km route.

This means that communities such as Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Huntsville, North Bay, Temagami, New Liskeard, Swastika, Cochrane and points in between will lose their train service. Instead, the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) will rely on buses to service the communities.

Northern Development Minister Rick Bartolucci explained the decision: “No government has worked harder than ours … to make the ONTC viable. Our priority is to invest in areas that matter most to northerners such as health care, highways and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund.”

Supposedly, costs of maintaining the one-train per day to and from Cochrane have escalated from $28 million a year to $100 million. If you’ll pardon the expression, what a load of crock.

John Hunt, columnist at the North Bay Nugget for some 60 years, is nothing if not outspoken. He says two reasons are given for the decision to scrap the train: To curb the provincial deficit, and because these guys in Toronto neither like nor understand the north.

Hunt is scathing on the ONTC and suggests “this collective can no more run a railway than they could run a house of ill-repute — and probably not as well.”

Some 320,000 passengers a year use the train, and now will have to rely on bus service or automobile on the already-congested Highway 11.

As for Bartolucci’s claim that northerners have other concerns, one poll shows 91% think the rail link is absolutely necessary, 6% favour an alternative, while 3% think it will reduce costs.

Curiously, train service will still exist between Cochrane and Moosonee — the 200-km Polar Bear Express to the tip of James Bay, which is a tourist attraction. How tourists will get to Cochrane to catch the Polar Bear Express is “a good question — it won’t be easy or convenient,” says Hunt.

ONTC phone numbers have been removed from local telephone books — replaced by a 1-800 number which, to Hunt, indicates ending the rail service was in the works long before the announcement.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Sun website: http://www.torontosun.com/2012/09/14/northlander-shutdown-shows-liberals-are-clueless-on-the-northern-ontario

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