As a federal election becomes a distinct possibility for this fall, Liberal Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff arrived in Vancouver Thursday taking the Sky Train on the city's newly opened Canada Line into downtown Vancouver. The symbolism can't be missed as the Canada Line was originally an initative of the former Liberal government, and Mr. Ignatieff addresses transportation policy in his new book, True Patriot Love.
His Sky Train ride came on the same day that Greyhound Bus Lines announced its plans to eliminate service in Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario saying it simply can't afford to provide the service any longer. Greyhound is also reducing service in parts of rural British Columbia.
National transportation should really be a major election issue, given that for the past 20 years at least, nobody seems to have wanted to talk about it. For example, when I left Chapleau, Ontario, about 20 years ago, which is on the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, there was a daily transcontinental Via Rail train serving the community. Heading west the train passed through small Northern Ontario communities like Marathon, White River, Schreiber, Terrace Bay, Nipigon to Thunder Bay, then on to Kenora and Winnipeg, and across the Prairies to British Columbia. Eastbound it went to Sudbury, where it was split, one section heading off to North Bay and Montreal, or to Toronto. In fact, this is the national railway that John A. Macdonald had built to create Canada! Today there is no passenger service to speak of on the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks across Canada. A Budd Car runs from Sudbury to White River three days a week.
Via Rail does run a part-time passenger service from Vancouver to Montreal on the Canadian National Railway tracks through Edmonton to Saskatoon and Winnipeg and then across a vast relatively unpopulated area to Sudbury. It boggles my mind when I think that Calgary and Regina for example do not have daily transcontinental passenger train service.
Chapleau no longer even has bus service and it looks like rural Canadian communities are going to become even more isolated than they are now if Greyhound cuts its service as announced.
The turn back the clock and accept the status quo mentality that permeates municipal, provincial and federal goverments in Canada has to end. They need to be jolted into accepting that we face new realities because of their failure to properly serve the people who put them into office over the past 20 years and longer.
One place to start is with a national transportation policy equivalent to the vision that Sir John A. and the founders of Canada had in the 19th century.
In his book Mr. Ignatieff writes about the success of high speed passenger trains in Europe but in Canada studies have been done for 50 years on high speed between Vancouver and Calgary, Windsor to Quebec City and Calgary to Edmonton. Nothing happened. He suggests that if we are really nation builders we would start on them now. I agree with Mr. Ignatieff, and suggest that if he becomes prime minister he look at rural Canada and the needs of the people who live there too.
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Thursday, September 3, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Before the Chapleau High School 90th anniversary reunion festival in 2012 I was last home in 2001 for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Chapleau, invited by the council of the day as a former reeve (mayor) and the guest of my dear friend Dr. G.E. Young. While home then and in 2012, I was most appreciative of all those who spoke so kindly of my mother, Muriel E. Morris, who taught them at Chapleau Public School over the 32 years she was on the staff there. In 2012 I was invited by the committee to be part of the program.
I was born in Hamilton but raised in Chapleau attending Chapleau Public School and Chapleau High School.
And now let me share some personal moments from my life as little boy on his tricycle, growing up in Chapleau in the 1940s as I bridged the great divide created by the CPR tracks going through the centre of town as I travelled from our house on Grey Street, "uptown", and over the old overhead bridge to my grandparents' house on Elgin Street on "the other side of town." When my grandmother Morris went over the bridge, she was going "overtown." (Photo of me taken in 1948 with my Mom in front of Boston Cafe as we head for the overhead bridge,)
|My grandparents Harry and Lil (Muliigan) Morris|
My grandmother Morris was a Mulligan and a member of one of Chapleau's founding families, while Grandpa Morris came to work on the CPR from Ottawa early in the 20th century. My father James E. Morris was killed on active service in the RCAF during World War II in 1943.
Anyway off I would go on a summer morning to Maw and Grandpa's house on my tricycle, and every time I made the journey it was like saying 'Good Morning Chapleau' as I would meet so many people along the way. I would head up Birch Street and usually run into Jim Broomhead making his daily milk deliveries who would tell me to be sure to say hello to my grandparents.
At the time Mr. and Mrs. C.A. "Bill" Pellow lived at Birch and Aberdeen and Mr. Pellow would always have a funny story for me. Sometimes Mr. Earle Sootheran would be leaving for work at Smith and Chapple Ltd. and would invite me into his house to see the angels in the stones.
As I travelled by Charles W. Collins Stores perhaps J.G. "Jiggs" Goldstein or Frank Coulter would be in the window getting the store ready for the day and I would wave and say hello. I might run into Ed Downey, the local pharmacist and of course A.J. Grout, the president of Smith and Chapple Ltd., always in a hurry but he took time to say hello. As I headed on to the bridge Mrs. Hong might be in front of the Boston Cafe, and maybe if I was real lucky, on my way home I would stop to play with her son Harry ("Boo") and have some of her famous Boston cream pie.
Quite honestly arriving at Maw and Grandpa's house opened up a whole new world for me. The CPR station was on their side of town -- the departure point when we left town. There was no highway until about 1948, and until the 1950s, the built up area of Chapleau pretty well ended at Queen Street. I could head off to play in a `different`bush than the one across from home on Grey Street. And yes, trust me, it was different. Imagine years later when I returned home and taught at Chapleau High School (the new school) I was spending my days in the bush where I had played as a child.
To a little boy my travels around Chapleau on my tricycle so many years ago now were truly great moments because of the people I met along the way. These were people who had carved Chapleau out of the wilderness, survived diseases and the Great Depression, served in World War I, World War II and were building a better place for their families.
The greatest resource any community has is its people, and let me give you one example that exemplifies the kind of people who have lived in Chapleau. One day I was chatting with Frank Coulter, who has just completed serving 18 years on the public school board. I asked Frank why he had chosen to serve so many years. Frank replied simply: ``Because Mr. Shoup told us we had a duty to serve, and this was one way I could.``
(Mr. J. M. Shoup served in World War I and World War II and was the longtime principal of Chapleau Public School.)
A duty to serve! Enough said.
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