OTTAWA – Greens in parliament are calling for legislation to give VIA Rail a proper mandate to deliver safe, reliable, low-carbon, affordable passenger transportation across Canada.
In the House of Commons this week, Green Party parliamentary leader Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands) tabled private member’s bill C-236, the VIA Rail Canada Act. If passed, the legislation will put Canada’s national rail carrier on a similar footing to Amtrak in the US, which operates under a statute that mandates it provide passenger rail across the country. In Canada, VIA Rail operates as a Crown Corporation without any mandate.
"I love traveling by rail,” said Ms. May. “I know that many Canadians in more remote and rural areas rely on the train, despite the poor level of service. But as a VIA fan, I note all recent investments have gone to the Windsor-Quebec corridor.
“I fear that VIA might sell off and privatize the continental routes – Vancouver to Toronto and Montreal to Halifax. With no bus service nearly everywhere in Canada, we need to protect our national passenger rail service."
Green Party interim Leader Amita Kuttner pointed out that the demands of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls for reliable and affordable ground transportation have not been met.
"VIA goes through many areas where it is the only option for Indigenous people other than hitch-hiking,” said Dr. Kuttner. “But even then the service is infrequent – two to three trains a week in many places. We need to invest in modernizing passenger rail transport to make it safe, low-carbon and convenient. "
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