Canada: You Can’t Get There From Here

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|December 27, 2023


For many Canadians, traveling across the country by train remains a cherished family memory. For many new immigrants to Canada, the train was the first introduction to their new home. Canada’s world-renowned transcontinental journeys continue to attract tourists from around the world, while many Canadians retain a train trip across the country on their travel bucket list. The train truly connects communities across Canada, and has for generations.



In the late-seventies, Canadians could travel from Victoria BC to St John's, Newfoundland & Labrador and everywhere in-between on a single ticket, through an integrated network of trains, ferries, hotels and services all along the way.

It is harder to travel anywhere by public transport in Canada these days, and we have only fallen further and further behind in recent years.

VIA Rail Canada was created in 1978, charged with consolidating and revitalizing the nation's passenger rail network, taking over responsibility for the unprofitable passenger operations from the freight railways, primarily CN and then later CP.

Regrettably, the history of VIA Rail is largely a history of cuts and under-investment by the federal government. 

Today it's challenging to get anywhere by train or any other means of public transport, as evidenced when the BBC’s television show The Amazing Race contestants were obliged to hitchhike to get themselves across BC in lieu of public transport options.

YouTuber Vanishing Underground has documented the (de) evolution of VIA Rail’s national network since 1978, as well as VIA’s operations in the Maritimes and Western Canada.  For those of us who advocate for an expansion of publicly-owned passenger rail in Canada that caters to environmental sustainability, safety, and the well-being of Canadian travelers and workers, it’s depressing to see how far we have truly fallen.



It is time for the Federal government to invest in VIA Rail to meet the travel needs of Canadians coast-to-coast, in communities large-and-small.

Unifor’s Get Canada Back on Track campaign advocates for an expansion of publicly-owned passenger rail in Canada. The campaign stresses the need for an expansion of VIA Rail services from coast-to-coast, along with investments to replace VIA Rail’s aging long-distance fleet. 

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Unifor is a Canadian union with a modern, inclusive approach to serving members and improving our workplaces and communities.