Dalton McGuinty Slips and Slides Away from Hydrogen Train Station

Posted 16 November 2010 by in Editorial

Dalton McGuintyTHUNDER BAY – During the 2007 Provincial Election, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty stated that “Ontario Liberals think Ontarians can – and should – lead the development of hydrogen alternatives for the world”. Three years have passed since Dalton McGuinty, standing with Bill Mauro and Michael Gravelle made that statement.

The Ontario Liberals stated in a Press Release, “The hydrogen commuter train is exactly the type of initiative envisioned when the Ontario Liberal government created the new $650 million Next Generation Jobs Fund, McGuinty said. Ontario Liberals want to expand the Fund by a further $500 million after the October 10th election”.

It now appears that promise was made, in Thunder Bay, more for political purposes than for economic or environmental purposes. It has been over three years since the promise was made. There has been no substantive action to make the promise a reality.

Yesterday in the Ontario Legislature, the McGuinty Liberals appear willing to let the entire idea slide yet further away. Here is the debate from the Hansard:

Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is to the Premier. We’re learning today that Metrolinx is preparing to enter into a sole-sourced agreement to purchase Japanese diesel trains to run along Toronto’s Union-Pearson air-rail link.

Why is the McGuinty government allowing Metrolinx to proceed without any Canadian content requirements whatsoever for these trains and before the completion of a $4-million electrification study?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: To the Minister of Transportation.

HydrailHon. Kathleen O. Wynne: It’s a pleasure to confirm the reality that Metrolinx’s procurement process is not complete; they’re in the process of undergoing that negotiation. They are having a board meeting tomorrow, and they’ll be completing those negotiations and talking to their board members about it. I’m not going to speculate on what Metrolinx is or is not going to do.

The point I want to make is that we’re building an air-rail link. We’re going to have a premium train service from Pearson airport to Union Station. I would expect that the New Democratic Party would actually be supportive of that. I would expect that the NDP would be supportive of more public transit, that they would understand that in order for Toronto to be a world-class city, we need to have that air-rail link, but apparently they are not supportive.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: No matter how you look at it, this train purchase makes no sense whatsoever. Without Canadian content requirements, there will be no jobs created here in Ontario. Emissions from dirty diesel trains will be greater than those emissions that are currently coming from cars that they will take off the roads. The trains will require a costly overhaul, eventually, to become compatible with future electrification of the line.

The Metrolinx board does meet tomorrow, as the minister already has said, and they’re going to be receiving an update on that air-rail link. My question to the Premier and the minister is, will the McGuinty government immediately instruct the board to slam the brakes on this foolish, foolish train proposal?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: No, we’re not going to stop building the air-rail link from Pearson to Union. I think that would be a very, very bad idea. Where there are procurement and Canadian content rules, obviously, those will be followed.

The point is, we are talking about convertible cars; we are talking about cars that will run with the highest quality diesel and will be convertible to electric. That’s a reality that the member opposite consistently forgets to mention.

We are going to build this air-rail link; we are going to provide a service that will allow people to go quickly and efficiently from Pearson to Union Station. That is absolutely in the best interest of this city and the economic development of the GTHA.

Notice how instead of offering: “Innovation – together with the skills and education of our people – is key to creating and attracting the high wage, high quality jobs we want for our people today, and in the future.” As Dalton McGuinty promised in 2007 in Thunder Bay, now it is yet another company from outside Canada that apparently will lead the way.

The trouble for Thunder Bay is that Andrea Horwath and the NDP do not appear willing to pick up the Hydrogen Train as a theme for their campaign platform. The Ontario Progressive Conservatives are also silent on the issue.

For Thunder Bay, likely it appears voters were played by Dalton McGuinty during the 2007 provincial election on this issue. Promises were made, and there has been no action.

Over the past three years, the only McGuinty Minister to comment on the issue has been Michael Gravelle who two years ago commented that it would take time to get money into the budget for the deal.

Likely by 2011, Ontarians will be looking at new options for leadership in our province.

For Thunder Bay, the lost opportunities with the now apparently forgotten and ignored Hydrogen Promise are more reality than rhetoric.

Premier Dalton McGuinty and his caucus have slide away from their promise with more silence and inaction than bravado.  One wonders if voters will remember come next October?

James Murray

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