Ontario’s High Speed Rail

Last year, the premier of Ontario announced plans to build a high speed rail system across Southern Ontario. The plan consists of two phases which, when completed, will connect Windsor to Toronto through Chatham, London, Kitchener, and Guelph. According to the Ministry of Transportation, Phase One (from Toronto to London) is set for completion by 2025. Phase Two (from London to Windsor) is scheduled to be completed by 2031.

Government needs to ensure that there is ample time for study and consultation. The public should have ample opportunities for input into a project that will change the landscape of their communities and, for many, their very own properties. Government will post public consultation dates online. These are anxious times for many of our farming communities along the route. We need time to study current systems in other countries to learn what worked well, what went wrong and where improvements can be made.

There are still many questions about this project, and the government will need to respond to them before any shovel hits the dirt. These include the overall cost of the project; the process for fair land acquisition and reallocation; the amount of land required to construct the line; the potential barrier to people, traffic and wildlife; and the long-term effect for current businesses and communities.

Other countries have constructed high speed rail systems that have been proven to be successful. Many North American visitors to Europe or Australia speak well of the public transportation systems there. Ours often pales in comparison. We need to keep up with technology as a society as well, like we do on our farms.

During the 2017 CFFO Policy Tour, we asked members to share their concerns about the health of their rural communities. Many farmers across the Ontario voiced concerns about population growth in rural areas. While most saw a need for growth in their neighbouring villages and hamlets, they voiced concerns about non-farming residences scattered across the province’s farmland.

Ontario population projections suggest that the province will grow by 4 million by 2041. The High Speed Rail has the potential of drawing the population to already-urban areas instead of increasing sprawl, since there are limited stops for boarding the train. Transit stations in the Greater Golden Horseshoe have density targets. Good planning needs to include density targets for the proposed rail stops, as well.  It is foreseeable that business and industry would intensify close to these stations as well, though it may require legislation.

There is still a lot to be determined about this planned form of transportation and a lot of consulting needs to be done. However, it’s possible that this plan may benefit agriculture in the long-term, preserving farmland by keeping development close to urban and industrial centres.

The Provincial Policy Statement for land use planning in Ontario should be used in the planning of this project. In many ways, all of Ontario and its resources could be affected by this project. The real question for all citizens of Ontario should be, “Will the cost of this project bring enough of a benefit to the whole province?” If it only benefits those who build the rail and trains, will it be worth the investment?

 

Paul Bootsma is Field Services Manager for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXFM Chatham, and CKNX Wingham.

Posted by Paul Bootsma on April 27, 2018

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3 Comments

  • Dale says:

    This is very sad news, I hope this does not go through.

  • John maaskant says:

    i feel it is a good thing to do and has been considered for many years but never done. Better rail service for people moving has many good benefits and is very responsible. Eventually it can be extended for the Montreal to Chicago corridor for greater benefit

    • adam Van Bergeijk says:

      I understand what you are saying about this, but if you know more about this I don’t think you would like it the way this is at this moment proposed.
      It should be good to know what kind of over or under passes it will have. For now as we know there are 5 or 6 planned between Kitchener and London. What effect will this have for emergency services? Think about ambulance Police Fire fighters etc. but also what kind of consequences it will have on the social contacts and for business around those cutoffs. Your business will be cut in two and to go around will then be around 30km instead of 3 km.
      Before the province has to make a move on this they should have first a short term plan and improve the current system with Via and Go train and buses before this is getting planned. We cannot afford another 15 years before something will get done, the 401 is getting too congested already and think how that will be in 10 years. So first create a good infrastructure and than plan a High Speed Rail. We better first learn to walk before running.
      It looks at this moment to be more important to get people out of Toronto as to get people not depending on a car. Just one example: if you live in New Hamburg and you don’t have a car how will you get to public transportation? The only way is now to call a cab, is that what you like? Sorry but this doesn’t make sense.

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