June 16, 2016
The Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Transport
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
ACR Passenger Train
In 2014 when Transport Canada, under the previous government cancelled the subsidy for the Algoma Central passenger train I wrote to Minister Lisa Raitt to express my dismay. I recently heard that although Transport Canada did agree in 2015 to three years of continued funding for that service through the Remote Passenger Rail Program, the service has been suspended since July 2015. Since you may not have seen the letter that I sent to Minister Raitt, I have decided to write directly to you as the new Minister of Transport.
As an artist and environmentalist I was horrified to hear about the potential closing of the Algoma Railway passenger service.
As an artist I consider the geographical area through which the train travels as a Canadian art history heritage area. The train is the way that Group of Seven painters traveled into the Canadian wilderness and creatively displayed those landscapes through their art. Their paintings of scenes along the Algoma Central Railway (ACR) have become Canadian cultural icons. I understand that art historian Michael Burtch and wildlife adventurers Joanie and Gary McGuffin have been conducting extensive, unique research along the ACR and have located hundreds of sites of paintings made by various Group of Seven artists. This research is new to the field of Canadian art history and their recent documentary film Painted Land: In Search of the Group of Seven will draw many tourists to the ACR tourism corridor. This will be a major boon to the tourist operators whose businesses are accessed only by this special train.
As an environmentalist I support public investment in train-based tourism and train travel in general as it is a way to reduce pollution and climate change and their destructive effects on the planet. Enhancing the Northern Ontario wilderness trains as eco-tourism rail corridors is a way for Northern Ontario to diversify its economy and lead to sustainability of its local communities in an environmentally respectful way. The Algoma Central Railway educates tourists about our fragile ecosystems as it travels through areas such as the world’s largest game preserve-the Chapleau Game Preserve.
I support the Missanabie Cree First Nation led working group’s proposal to Transport Canada to reinstate the passenger service between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst. This is a most urgent matter and I trust that given your government’s mandate to address climate change, Indigenous and Northern economic development, infrastructure, small business and tourism needs, you will see the importance of directing Transport Canada to finalize negotiations with Missanabie Cree First Nation to reinstate the passenger service. That service is essential infrastructure as the only transportation to residences and businesses along over 400 km of the line and for the development of a rail tourism corridor through Ontario wilderness.
cc Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Chief Jason Gauthier
Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Environment & Climate Change Catherine McKenna
Minister of Infrastructure & Communities Amarjeet Sohi
Minister of Small Business & Tourism Bardish Chagger
Minister of Innovation, Science & Economic Development Navdeep Bains
Minister of employment, workforce Development and Labour MaryAnn Mihychuk
Terry Sheehan, M.P.
Carol Hughes, M.P.
Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains (CAPT)
Northern and Eastern Ontario Rail Network (NEORN)