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An Open Letter to the Prime Minister and Ontario's Premier

To: Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
    Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
    Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport, Canada
    Caroline Mulroney, Ministry of Transportation of Ontario
    Phil Verster, CEO Metrolinx
    Cynthia Garneau, CEO VIA Rail         

Re: The necessity of a strong train and bus network throughout Canada

I have read with grave concern about Greyhound Bus Lines’ decision to permanently end its operations throughout Canada, following its earlier decision to shut down its routes in western Canada. This, combined with service cutbacks to VIA Rail, have severely reduced public transit options for Canadians living in small towns and rural areas in this country.

In urban centres, it is easy for Canadians to take their mobility for granted. Many of us have cars, or access to good public transit networks to get them where they need to go. But outside of Canada’s big cities, people who cannot drive - either because they can’t afford it or are medically or for other reasons unable to - are effectively locked into their own homes. Services like Greyhound, or the now defunct Saskatchewan Transportation Company, gave people access to medical appointments or jobs they wouldn’t otherwise have had. Bus services like Greyhound have been important links for women fleeing abusive domestic partners.

Public transit is a public service, just like roads and highways. If private enterprise is unable to provide this necessity, it’s up to our governments to step in. A good step to take in the short term would be to contract Greyhound to continue operating its routes, covering its operating deficits. Going forward, a proper national network of connecting bus and train networks should be built so that people can travel across this country without having to rely on cars or planes.

In Canada, in addition to improving VIA service in the Quebec-Windsor corridor, Canada’s national train, the Canadian, should be improved to daily service, and freight railroads strongly encouraged to give this train priority over their tracks. In Ontario, the provincial government could improve service in southwestern Ontario by providing additional funds to VIA Rail for equipment and operations, such as how California provides service through Amtrak. Ontario Northland should receive the funds necessary not only to restore the Northlander, but to take over the Sudbury-White River train and extend it to Thunder Bay or Winnipeg. Bus lines should be set up connecting these train services to smaller towns further afield.

These steps would support Canada’s fight against climate change and support national tourism as that industry recovers from the pandemic. More than that, these steps would ensure that Canadians everywhere have equal access to this country, regardless of their ability to own and drive a car. Mobility rights in this nation have been overlooked for too long, and provincial and federal governments need to step up to address this long-neglected need.

James Bow, Chief Content Editor, Transit Toronto
Robert Mackenzie, Senior News Correspondent, Transit Toronto


A VIA train backs into Windsor station on the afternoon of May 18, 2018. Photo by James Bow

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