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City to spend $50,000 on Sault to Hearst passenger rail committee

Wednesday, February 19, 2014   by: Darren Taylor

City Council, at its regular meeting Tuesday, approved spending up to $50,000 for a working committee dedicated to establishing a long-term plan to keep CN Rail passenger service running between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst.

The money will come from the City’s Economic Development Fund (EDF).

The money will be used to hire a part-time coordinator for the working committee, for economic impact studies to be done, and pay for travel and meeting expenses.

It is not yet known how much smaller communities will contribute toward the committee’s work.

With little notice, CN Rail dropped a bombshell January 24 by announcing that due to a cut of $2.2 million in annual federal government funding, it would be ending passenger rail service from the Sault to Hearst as of March 31.

Since then, CN has announced it is extending rail service until April 29.

The route is a vital link to private cottages and crucial to the commercial success of hunting and fishing lodges between the Sault and Hearst, most of which can only be accessed by rail.

An earlier resolution, passed unanimously by Council February 3, called for Council to convince the federal government (Transport Canada) to continue financial support of CN’s operation of the Sault to Hearst passenger rail route for a further period of one year.

That one-year period, if granted, would hopefully give all stakeholders, such as the federal government, CN, the City, cottage and lodge owners, supporters of passenger rail service such as the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains (CAPT) and others a chance to come together and work out a plan to keep the Sault to Hearst line running in the long term.

The resolution called for a meeting of all stakeholders as soon as possible to address the issue.

A first meeting of groups affected by CN’s decision was held at the Civic Centre Thursday February 13.

It was decided at that meeting that a working committee be formed to pursue a one year extension of passenger rail service between the Sault and Hearst in the short-term, and to come up with a plan to ensure passenger rail service in the long-term.

The working committee is led by Sault Ste. Marie Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Joe Fratesi and includes Tom Dodds, Ian McMillan and Dave Murphy of the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (EDC), CAPT representative Al Errington, and several others.

Fratesi told Council Tuesday that the first meeting was well attended and included several stakeholders through teleconference.

Fratesi said Sault Ste. Marie MP Bryan Hayes and Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes are well aware of the issue and that Hayes is lobbying the federal government for temporary funding for the Sault to Hearst passenger rail service. 

The Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains (CAPT), meanwhile, will be holding three town hall meetings for people affected by CN’s decision.

The first will be held in Sault Ste. Marie Wednesday February 19 at 7:30 p.m. at the Civic Centre, another in Wawa on Thursday at 10 a.m. in the Michipicoten Memorial Community Centre and a third in Hearst at 8 p.m. in the Companion Hotel.

A similar situation occurred when CP Rail and Huron Central Rail announced their intention to shut down rail operations between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.

A working committee of stakeholders, formed in 2009, won a one year reprieve, along with federal government funding for one year, while various parties (the federal and provincial governments, communities and industries) came together and eventually, successfully ensured continued, long-term rail service between the Sault and Sudbury.

Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
25miller 2/19/2014 9:34:33 AM Report

"The route is a vital link to private cottages and crucial to the commercial success of hunting and fishing lodges between the Sault and Hearst, most of which can only be accessed by rail." ....Well most of these places are owned by Americans so why do the Canadian's tax money go towards this?I think the City should contact the American owners and have them put their fair share of the money also.
ThinkAgain 2/19/2014 9:37:33 AM Report

Can't wait for elections.
Dixiepup 2/19/2014 9:39:18 AM Report

How many runs to Hearst would 50 Gs pay for? Give the frickin money to the train instead of a committee!
bounder 2/19/2014 9:40:22 AM Report

Let's not forget the Norgoma, another dead end venture.
TFinn 2/19/2014 9:45:47 AM Report

Waste of funds ..... like many other companies ....they (CN) have billions and billions in resources but they will use tactics like this (emotional blackmail) to bleed the working people and tax payers wallets dry ..!! Why don't they ask Billy Gates for a little of his billions to subsidise it for the good of many .... since he owns the largest amount of shares of CN. … .nope much easier to threaten the Gov and small guys to get their way ..!! You call this a Canadian company looking out for the Canadians ?? ...they're looking out for themselves..!
TFinn 2/19/2014 9:59:22 AM Report

BTW ... Railway travel in most other countries is a vital entity and other countries are constantly building new and rebuilding for their people. Only Canada is getting rid of this vital institute piece by piece ..! Shame on our Gov to allow this to happen.
theprotector 2/19/2014 10:16:58 AM Report

shame on council for throwing away 50 grand over an issue they cant do anything about anyway! Perhaps someone's cousin or other relative needed a contract job so at the end they can draw pogy.
crashed13 2/19/2014 10:20:46 AM Report

Not to many train only accesses places any longer with all the logging going on.
If you want to get someplace get a 4x4 truck and ATV on your own dime.

I remember "Eaton" being train only, now a car can get there.
justsomeguy 2/19/2014 10:29:29 AM Report

@TFinn - other countries though have many more towns/cities with more significant populations connected by rail with stops in between. A much higher population requires it and utilizes it frequently. I'm not really sure if that's an equitable comparison.

Northern Ontario seems to deviate from many other places in many ways so finding a comparison will be difficult at best.

Shoeless 2/19/2014 10:37:11 AM Report

I agree with other comments stating give the $50,000 to the rail line to keep the train running and not on a committee that will spend $50,000 to tell us something we already know. We need the line.
Renstimpy 2/19/2014 10:46:28 AM Report

Lets put this into perspective. How much tax payers money do you think the Canadian government handed out in foreign aid to less fortunate countries around the world last year ? Well I,m not going to tell because it will start a riot on parliment hill. To cut 2.2 million in funding for this service and all the jobs that go with keeping this train operating is simply put criminal. Are you kidding me.People better pull their heads out of their arrses next election and vote someone in who actually cares about our own population right here in our own back yard, Some one should be in Ottawa screaming at the top of their lungs that this is even happening. What an embarising day to be a politician.
justsomeguy 2/19/2014 10:53:06 AM Report

@Renstimpy - and which politician/party do you think truly & honestly cares about us?
Then combine that with the party - you think the cons are the only ones who MUST vote with the party line?

NDP are notorious for that also. There's so much behind the scenes that we aren't privy to.

Even a passionate, caring northern MP who feels strongly about a bill/issue will at times be forced to vote the party line regardless of the party.

The whole system is broken & corrupt I'm afraid. The only thing any politician truly cares about is longevity.

All these media releases and grand standing is designed to fool people and divert attention.
dadal 2/19/2014 12:03:19 PM Report

What a waste of money. And what will the committee find? Not much. An access road all the way? Who will pay for it? Just a nice way to shut up those that are upset and a stall for elections. We will NOT forget in the next election
Lone24 2/19/2014 12:18:03 PM Report

You hit the nail right on the head there. Your 100% right with your comment, thats' exactly how it is.
HeyImOnnaBus 2/19/2014 1:13:40 PM Report

How much does a ticket cost to take a train to Hearst? I bet CN's charging an exorbitant amount. I'd rather see the 50Gs go toward lowering rail travel ticket prices. Wouldn't ticket price controls increase ridership? I'm tired of committees that in the end conclude what's already obvious.
justsomeguy 2/19/2014 1:30:30 PM Report

To me, all these committees and forums seem like a bit of a ruse. Something done in order to make it look like action is being taken without actually having to take action.

lp670-4 Super Veloce 2/19/2014 2:32:53 PM Report

Trains are so outdated. Use trucks and boats. Way more efficient. Trains are useless.
TFinn 2/19/2014 3:32:21 PM Report

Hey no big deal here ...perfect opportunity Gov project to put people to work and solve an ongoing problem! out the old tracks and replace it with a highway ....if they could build a highway through some of the roughest land in Northern Ontario from Dryden Ontario to Fort Frances Ontario at approx 170 kms. they could easily do it here as well …….especially when there is a bed already laid down ...the old rail beds ..!! then tell CN to go to H***
travelingman 2/19/2014 4:32:59 PM Report

Why is it better to have a facilitator from out of town? Spending money to transport someone back and forth for meetings that is not familiar with or passionate about our situation does not make sense. There are people who's livelihood and future are at stake here that would probably do a better job without having to spend $50,000. That's a lot of donuts and coffee!
moose23 2/19/2014 6:19:32 PM Report

Agree with justsomeguy re: comments to TFINN - TFINN: "Railway travel in most other countries is a vital entity ... Only Canada is getting rid of this vital institute [railway] piece by piece ..! Shame on our Gov to allow this to happen."
Reality Check: majority of developed countries are very small in area and have very high population densities so investments in rail travel make sense as there are actually people present that will use the service.
>if the passenger rail service cannot be profitable then is should shut down or we (taxpayers) must take it over - Are we willing to pay? I guess it takes $50K to get that answer...

littlejoe 2/20/2014 8:15:41 PM Report


We need business people or a chartered accountant on our city council.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know CN looses money on the passenger service to Hearst.

How will $50,000.00 dollars ever change

Should have donated money to charities would have helped people appreciate common sense.

The committee is laughing out loud.

"City Council if you read this article
think about it"

Frank Manzo would have never supported
this donation to the middle of nowhere.
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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