On September 2nd, Stephen Harper announced that the federal government would be investing $265 million in light rail in the Kitchener-Waterloo region. This is only 1/3 of the cost of the proposed project (which is projected to be operational by 2015) but the area will benefit greatly from the additional transportation infrastructure. The press conference was low-key and few major news outlets reported on the event.
On Labour Day, in Milwaukee, President Barack Obama announced a $50 billion infrastructure plan to build roads, runways and many a railway in the United States. The plan will finally bring European-style super trains to America. The President’s speech was covered by American and Canadian media and was laid out in a speech that has been described as one of his best since becoming President.
The two announcements were as different as Prime Minister Harper and President Obama. Harper inherited a $13 billion budget surplus from the previous Liberal government (similar to the massive surplus George W. Bush inherited from President Clinton) whereas Obama inherited the largest recession since the great depression. When President Obama took office he was quick to put into place the stimulus measures to save American jobs and then he embarked upon the most ambitious financial reform measures (aimed an America’s banks) since FDR. As late as October 14th, 2008, Stephen Harper was saying: “This country will not go into recession next year”. While in opposition he railed against the regulatory measures the Liberals put in place that so effectively protected Canadian banks from the global economic meltdown. When he was finally forced to pass a stimulus bill Harper did so reluctantly and in a shameful pork-barrel style that built gazebos and arenas instead of investing in infrastructure projects that Canada so desperately needs. President Obama set up a website, http://www.recovery.gov , where American’s could track the stimulus. Prime Minister Harper’s culture of deceit was in full swing so the opposition had to ask the AG to investigate how the dollars were spent.
“Our suspicion is that, first of all, the process was slow, a lot slower than they said it would be and, second, that there seems to have been a tendency to distribute the money for political reasons rather than for reasons of economic need.” – John McCallum.
Canada’s infrastructure is badly in need of an upgrade. The Liberal Party is the only Canadian political party with substantive infrastructure policy (the focus of the Toronto Can150 Policy forum was, in fact, infrastructure.) As Michael Ignatieff has said over and over, if the Canadian government doesn’t invest in infrastructure now we are going to have “people without jobs and jobs without people.” One excellent way to connect people with jobs, create many jobs now and invest in the technology that will bring jobs of the future, is high-speed rail.
The only thing stopping Canada from having high-speed rail is regressive/stunted Conservative ideology. In many ways, it seems like Conservatives just hate trains (with the exclusion of John A. Macdonald, though Stephen Harper has a low opinion our first Prime Minister as he detests the national policy) as Stephen Harper and John McCain are both fervently anti-train. Conservative opposition to high-speed rail (and the census, and bank regulation, and evidence-based crime policy) has nothing to do with the facts.
Reports, reports, reports:
Since 1973 there have been 16 separate studies on the feasibility of high-speed rail in Canada (specifically a line connecting Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Windsor.) All of them (including the most recent one from the Rotman School of Management at U of T) argue that the benefits far outweigh the costs.
The estimate cost of this project is $23.9 Billion. The final result would make it possible for someone to travel from Toronto to Montreal in 2 hours and 18 minutes! Down from 4 hours. At 300 km/h this plan would slash greenhouse emissions, energy consumption and traffic. Another line connecting Edmonton to Calgary has also been closely studied and would be a boon to Alberta. Bombardier could build the trains/tracks so the jobs and technological innovation would all stay in Canada.
“One of the things that the Martin-Florida report spoke to was the need to enhance our connectivity … for purposes of growing the economy.” - Dalton McGuinty.
Why do the Conservatives oppose a Canadian high-speed rail project?
They are a bunch of ignorant jackanapes The Price Tag: “That’s a gigantic $20 billion or $30 billion project.” – John Baird. Conservatives say that the line would cost too much.
Some Conservative costs:
- $13 Billion: The Liberal-created budget surplus that Stephen Harper wasted.
- Billions: that Stephen Harper squandered by cutting the GST which economists say had no real benefit and cost the government a huge sum of money.
- $1 Billion: Cost of the 2010 G20 summit.
- $19 Billion: No big fighter-jet contracts.
- $12 Billion: Prisons for “unreported crimes.”
- $1 billion on consultants in its first two years in office – a 42 per cent increase compared to the Liberal government from 2004-06.
Stephen Harper’s Conservative Government could have built the Montreal-Windsor (which President Obama has guaranteed would meet with an American high-speed rail line starting in Michigan which would be a big shot-in-the-arm to Canadian manufactures) several times with all of the Billions of Billions of Canadian taxpayer’s dollars they have wasted.
Canada needs high-speed rail. Job. Technology. Canadian Unity. The Environment.
“Like a gavel it would close Debate, making Macdonald’s ‘sea to sea’ Pour through two oceanic megaphones — Three thousand miles of Hail from port to port; And somewhere in the middle of the line Of steel, even the lizard heard the stroke. The breed had triumphed after all. To drown The traffic chorus, she must blend the sound With those inaugural, narcotic notes Of storm and thunder which would send her back Deeper than ever in Laurentian sleep.” – E.J. Pratt. Towards the Last Spike.