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Candidates back passenger rail in Algoma District

We asked candidates if rail service between the Sault and Hearst - via Missanabie Cree First Nation's proposed 'Bear Train' project - is economically viable. Here's what they said
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Local electoral candidates say that they endorse and support the efforts of Missanabie Cree First Nation (MCFN) to bring passenger rail service back to the Algoma District on the former Algoma Central Railway.  

Earlier this week, MCFN made it public that a revised third version of its business plan for Mask-wa Oo-ta-ban [Bear Train] has been submitted to Transport Canada, which asks for more than $12 million over the next five years to resuscitate rail service between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst. 

SooToday asked candidates if they think the Mask-wa Oo-ta-ban project was economically feasible: 

Terry Sheehan (Liberal Party of Canada)

This is an important initiative to connect our Northern communities, which is why I have been supportive of the project and have provided funding to Missanabie Cree so that they may create the business plan. I know that since the initial business plan, MCFN has brought on additional resources to fill gaps identified in the original plan. I am supportive of this process and will continue to champion Missanabie Cree, the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains, and their vision for passenger rail.

Amy Zuccato (People’s Party of Canada)

I think the PPC position would be that we want to return the rail industry to profitability through a free and open market where all participants benefit from a level playing field and are responsible for maintaining their privately-owned infrastructure. Undoubtedly the rail and trucking industry have been crippled by over-regulation and years of government choosing winners and losers.

Geo McLean (Green Party of Canada)

The Green Party has a significant sum earmarked for rail development over several years. In terms of money, I believe that the social and real benefits of public transportation far outweigh the monetary costs in terms of accessibility, cross-country migration, tourism, and carbon footprint. Additionally, it is investments like these that will save us money in the long run both in terms of climate and socially.

Sonny Spina (Conservative Party of Canada)

I’d like to review all aspects of the business case for the line. I think there’s a role for government to play, but ultimately there has to be a business case that will ensure the line is sustainable and economically viable so we can direct government money to help build our economy in other ways.

Sara McCleary (New Democratic Party)

It’s no longer here because the Conservatives decided that northern Ontario was a good place to make cuts. The train cost $2.2 million a year when it was still running, but it brought in about $40 million a year in economic benefit, and it also contributed to $6 million in taxes. The economic benefit of rail in the north, it’s significantly greater than the cost.

James Hopkin

About the Author: James Hopkin

James Hopkin is a reporter for SooToday in Sault Ste. Marie
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