The Future of Canadian Rail: A Call to Action

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Jennifer Murray
|November 07, 2023

Railway work runs through my veins - it's a family legacy that I carry with pride.

This week I had the opportunity to present to the federal transportation committee about the VIA Rail High Frequency Rail (HFR) project and its impact on workers and the travelling public.

As a rail worker of 27 years, I have witnessed the comings and goings of trains, the closings of stations, and the changes that have swept through the industry. I've seen the resilience and dedication of those who work on the rails and behind the scenes, maintaining and servicing the backbone of our country's infrastructure.

Unifor has always championed investments in passenger rail because we see it as the lifeblood of connectivity and economic growth, especially in a country defined by its challenging weather and vast geography. Our union stands firm in the belief that public passenger rail is not a relic of the past but an essential component of a sustainable future.

However, the proposed HFR project, under the guise of modernity, has presented us with a ‘solution’ that would undermine the very essence of what we have fought for.

Public-private partnerships (P3s) are not the innovation they are touted to be; they are a continuation of a privatisation agenda that has repeatedly shown to be inefficient and costly to Canadians.

The HFR project, as it stands, threatens to fragment our rail system further, moving away from a unified and inclusive vision for Canadian transport. It raises serious questions about the direction we are taking: Are we investing in the entire system or just in segments that attract business interest?

Our stance is clear: We need bold government investment in a public passenger rail system that binds the nation, not one that alienates or prioritizes one region over another. The proposed involvement of state-owned European companies in the HFR project only highlights the irony in the argument for privatisation.

As we see it, the current process is laced with delays and a reliance on consultants revisiting already established studies. It's time to stop hesitating because of the project's expense.

History has taught us that great achievements require great investments.

The ongoing delays affect more than just the HFR project; they signify an under investment in our entire rail system, relegating it to a service for enthusiasts and those with no other options.

This isn't the future we envision for Canadian rail.

Other countries have shown that adequate investment in a public passenger rail system results in substantial benefits. It is an engine for economic development, creating jobs and keeping wealth within the community. When we privatise these services, we lose much more than control; we lose the economic benefits that should stay in Canada.

Our union will continue to urge the federal government to take a hard look at the HFR structure and to consider significant, direct investments in a rail system that Canadians can be proud of.

We need a rail system that is accessible, reliable, and affordable for all. Let's get Canada back on track and invest in a vision that carries everyone forward.

In Solidarity,

Jennifer Murray,

Unifor Atlantic Regional Director

Click Below To Watch Jenn's Speech