Everyone’s an expert on High-Speed Rail.

You can hardly blame an old friend such as David Collenette. His career has been in service to the Liberal Party. He was executive director of the Ontario party in 1974 when he was asked to be the federal candidate in York East when the earlier nominee had to resign. We were pleased when David won. He was a hard-working backbencher and went on to serve in the cabinets of three prime ministers.

It was his service as federal minister of transport in the Chrétien cabinet that gives him credibility in addressing the question of high-speed rail (HSR) for Ontario. David’s report to Premier Wynne is the basis of her proposed HSR from London to Toronto. She has asked David to continue his assistance in shepherding the environmental review of the plan.

But it seems that resistance is already building and the chances of Ontario ever having HSR is quickly being mired in political controversy. Premier Wynne might have brought this on herself for her constant timidity and half-measures in getting anything to happen.

The Toronto Star has certainly drawn up its drawers and decided that this is a controversial issue. The paper has so far invited business professors, business ‘experts and its own columnists to have at the plan. While they do not appear to drool spittle as they mostly condemn the plan as do the PostMedia writers, they are not sparing the hyperbole. Ms. Wynne is really in need of friends here.

If only her plan, as it stands, was not so damn political, we would be sympathetic. Canadians are going to have to rescue this situation with a very different strategy. We need to go back 150 years and take note of how Sir John A. Macdonald pulled this country together. It might have taken a lot of rhetoric, a lot of whisky and a lot of skulduggery but we got railways that ran from sea to sea.

On top of that, at the turn of the 20th Century, southern Ontario was a world leader in inter-city electric railcars. Why government-owned GO Transit did not go electric immediately as the commuter rail lines were connected over the years, we have no idea. The change at this stage gets more expensive every day.

But the real need for the first 250 kph trains in Canada is on the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal loop. That will likely take smarter politicians in Ottawa, Quebec City and Toronto than are there today.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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