Sunday, April 13, 2008

Go Train to Niagara runs into Liberal fog

"Niagara on track for GO service?" was the headline question in the St. Catharines Standard, Apr.9, 2008, a question that the story couldn’t quite clearly answer!

St. Catharines Liberal MPP Jim Bradley – now Ontario's Transportation Minister – said “There are some major works that would have to be done in Hamilton, I am told, that is to ensure you could bring a line to Niagara.”

Yet eight years ago, Bradley was blustering in opposition “It is time…to extend GO Transit to St. Catharines and Niagara Falls to provide commuters with an alternative to crammed, increasingly expensive and often unsafe highways, and to make it easier for tourists from the Greater Toronto Area to visit Niagara.” (Niagara Falls Review, May 3, 2000) ("Unsafe highways"?? Well, you have the obligation now, Mr. Bradley, to make certain they ARE safe.)

Bradley has been disingenuous regarding GO Transit for years. He makes vague promises that he’s in favour of it, but when he’s in power, does incrementally little about it. We had no GO service – neither rail, nor bus, in Niagara since he’s been in office. Now, ‘he’s been told’ that track work first has to be done at Hamilton for the train to get to Niagara – what…wasn’t he aware of that years ago when he was badgering for GO in opposition? Was Bradley ever specific as to the costs required to deliver GO train service to Niagara?

Suddenly, now that he’s in government, Bradley has conveniently discovered that track work needs to be done?! Why, then, hadn’t that track work been started in 2003, when the Liberals were elected, if Niagara-bound GO Transit was such a Bradley priority? Or, did Bradley even know what he was talking about when he was making his earlier promises? And one is never quite sure, when Bradley blusters about GO Transit, what he actually means – specifically, is he referring to train, or to bus, service? And then, is he referring to train/bus commuter, or train/bus tourist, service? Does he mean taking a bus to the train, for example, from Niagara to Hamilton? Or is he talking about bringing the train from Hamilton to Niagara? Announcing funding for building a series of parking lots isn't much of an answer.

If in 2000, Bradley was alluding to “GO Transit” as a bus service to Niagara – well, why hasn’t THAT been ALREADY done??! He’s had since 2003 to implement that!

Or is Bradley referring to the more complex rail transit being instituted into Niagara in the form of the GO train? That’s what Bradley intimated in his 2007 re-election campaign at the all-candidate’s debate held at the CAW hall – Bradley talked about the GO “TRAIN” – not bus. Shortly after the election, Bradley was anointed as Ontario’s transit czar, and suddenly, he was musing that GO might - someday - arrive in Niagara, in the form of a bus service!

Now the Standard reports that GO Transit might be arriving as a weekend train to Niagara –which sounds encouraging until you realize they were saying the same thing back in 2001!

The St. Catharines Standard story “Casino trains no big deal for Niagara” (Dec.29, 2001) reported that GO trains were available for use on Niagara runs because, obviously, they were sitting essentially idle on weekends. But the twist then was that this had something to do with the casino – as if the casino had to approve it.

The story read:

“If GO Transit starts running a weekend train service to Niagara Falls at the behest of Casino Niagara, the transportation problems of the region won't be solved, says Debbie Zimmerman.
But Niagara Region's chair said in an interview that won't stop Niagara from taking advantage of the service.
"It would certainly be a part of the whole transportation story we are working on," she said.
Zimmerman was responding to a Wednesday report by The Canadian Press that GO Transit has talked to Casino Niagara about running trains from Toronto to Niagara Falls on the weekend because of the availability of engines and cars from GO's weekday commuter fleet.
The report quoted Gary McNeil, managing director of GO Transit, as saying trains for the casino are a possibility but not likely until after the new $800-million casino opens in 2004.
The casino operators are interested, McNeil said, but can't go anywhere with the idea yet because the present casino is full to capacity every weekend.”

Well, it's now 2008 ... what’s the excuse going to be today – that the casino is now NOT “full to capacity”, so NOW the GO train service is okay?!

Can Jim Bradley explain this? Does bringing in GO train service, using existing tracks and stations, have more to do with the needs of the casinos, or more to do, as Bradley likes to say, with smog and overcrowded highways? If VIA can manage to rustle up a bike train to Niagara using existing tracks, why hasn’t Bradley’s Liberal government already implemented at least weekend GO train service years ago??

After all, McGuinty and his local Niagara Liberal MPP's have had since 2003 to reach a 'terms-of-use agreement' with track-owner CN Rail.

Jim Bradley used to bluster that "we have over 2,000 premature deaths" in Ontario caused by smog. "It costs us a billion dollars a year," claimed then-environment critic Bradley (CBC, Jun.22, 2003).

So, why then hasn't this 'billion dollar cost', as alleged by Bradley, been used to actually close Nanticoke, or to bring Go trains to Niagara? Because the Liberals have done nothing about Nanticoke, nor brought GO trains to Niagara, it must have already cost, over five years of Liberal rule (according to Jim Bradley's figures) at least 10, 000 lives and five billion dollars.

Do the Liberals have the foggiest idea?

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