Derail provincial government’s plan to kill train travel

Why are so many decisions being made that may seem positive in the short-term (at least to some), but could well have horrific long-term consequences?

Take what’s going on with rail transportation in Ontario, where the government wants to close passenger rail lines to smaller communities across the province for a lack of a business case. When is the last time that a community had to justify a road with a business case?

I know that we’re in debt. We’re in a hole all right, more like an open-pit mine. Not unlike such a mine, they’re digging us deeper and deeper, looking for pockets of “gold” and selling them to the highest bidder. End of the day, we’ve raped the landscape and are looking up at a polluted sky from the bottom of a pit, with no way out.

There’s a better way, but it will require long-term thinking, which you may have noticed isn’t particularly rampant among politicians and businesspeople as they seek short-term gains in order to remain in power.

I’m no chess player, but the concept of thinking several moves ahead is a good metaphor here.

If Ontario is the chess board, then the tall king represents the skyscrapers of Toronto. His prestige status is accorded by being the hub of political power.

As the game starts, the king is comfortable staying right where he is, only aware of the five squares he might move to next if he feels threatened on his square. After a move off his original square, he still never expands his view beyond up to eight squares around him. The king happily moves one square at a time, reliant on the rest of the pieces to defend his way of life.

The king isn’t thinking through what will happen if he hobbles the other players’ ways of moving on the board. Winding down the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, and cancelling the Northlander train service between Toronto and Cochrane is like telling the rook it can only move one square at a time (knowing the rook has to move many squares at a time to really get anywhere).

King, oh king, are you clear on the fact that if you limit the rook’s travel patterns, you reduce how quickly he can come to your defence? (You can also forget about castling!)

How about the knight of Sault Ste. Marie? It has to move three squares at a time to get anywhere and it is currently only moving two squares forward and then one to the side. What happened to passenger rail to the Sault from Ottawa and Toronto? Why are you leaving us stuck in the middle of the board?

King, think more moves ahead, lest you find yourself “lying” on your side. (The irony of that homonym is not lost on me.)


Want healthier communities? Don’t cut off rail transportation to them. Don’t you remember how this country was built? While you may like air travel or driving, rail is much more environmentally friendly.

Speaking of environmentally friendly, to sustain and feed all of the players on the chess board, don’t you need farmland? Don’t keep expanding the GTA cookie-cutter subdivisions onto some of the best farmland in the province. You need to stop this now before it is Easter Island all over again. (Read “A Short History of Progress” if that reference is lost on you.)

Worried about how you would deal with your strained city infrastructure if you stopped rampant expansion? Wondering how to be more competitive as a province, thinking about how to get more university and college graduates to lead us in innovation and sustainability?

Look at the whole chess board. Look to the edges of the board. They once said, “Go West” — now I say resoundingly: “Go North!” Stop thinking of the North as a liability, or simply a source of water, wood, and minerals. We are the solution.

We already have the city infrastructure to support much larger populations and growth won’t destroy prime farmland. We have room in our colleges and universities, so you can stop supporting expansion at universities in southern Ontario where class sizes are already obscenely impersonal. Use some of the money saved for scholarships to send students North.

Keep the rail and bolster it to the North, from Ottawa and Toronto.

Stop running ROI calculations for one year and find some advisers who can help look 20, 50, 100 years down the road at sustainable ways to live in Ontario. A short-term profit from selling rail lines or abandoning them will likely end up costing the people of this province exponentially more in the future. Rail systems built this country and can help save this province.

I just joined the ONTARIO NORTHLAND … NOT FOR SALE! group on Facebook – along with a lot of other voters.

“Check.” (King, it’s your move.)

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