With a provincial election next year, longtime Timmins-James Bay MPP Gilles Bisson says an NDP government would take Northern Ontario transportation seriously.
Speaking at the Ontario Northland bus station downtown Timmins, Bisson said that if elected the NDP would direct a revitalized Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) to talk to individuals, municipalities, businesses and more “to determine how we bring the train back.”
The Northland passenger train was cancelled in 2012.
According to Bisson, the government has created a two-tier system for inter-city transportation across Ontario.
In southern Ontario, he said there are capital dollars and subsidies available for services like GO Transit.
In Northern Ontario, he said the government ended the train service between Toronto and Cochrane, and took away the subsidies and capital dollars.
“That’s not only resulted in the loss of service when it comes to train, it resulted in a loss of service when it comes to bus. A lot of the communities along Highway 11 don’t have the service that they need for people to move from point A to point B,” he said.
With the train, he said it was clear that there were problems.
“The schedule didn’t work for some, the train didn’t even come to Timmins, which is the largest community other than North Bay on the line," said Bisson. "We need to look at how do we bring that service back in a way that we can increase ridership and how do we develop the bus service so that the bus service is able to augment what the train does so that it’s an integrated system."
The NDP plan is to let northerners decide how to: provide passenger train service to northeastern Ontario, enhance bus service, develop practical rail and bus schedules, identify communities of interest/need, decide what the infrastructure and equipment needs are, enhance freight service, and more.
Bisson’s plan is based on the NDP winning next year’s election, which will be held June 7 unless one is called earlier.
“We have a very good chance of forming government next time around, the Liberals are vastly unpopular, I think the Conservatives are much an unknown and I think Andrea Horwath as an experienced leader and the stuff that we’re putting forth as far as policy puts the NDP in a good chance to form the government,” he said.
While Bisson will be a candidate in the 2018 provincial election, he hasn’t publicly announced what riding it will be in. Earlier this year, Timmins-James Bay was split into two ridings – Timmins and Mushkegowuk-James-Bay. Ontario is meeting with communities to decide an official name for Mushkegowuk-James Bay.