R. Jeanette Martin
THE CLEAN TRAIN FESTIVAL with WAYNE PETTI, ALBERTA DARLING, ANDREA HORWATH, ANDREW CASH and JONAH SCHEIN on the West Toronto Railpath, at Wallace, Saturday (April 28), 1-4 pm. Free. cleantrain.ca. See listing.
One of the most insulting assumptions a government can make is that voters are either too dumb to know they're being conned or too lazy to get engaged.
Lately, this strategy hasn't worked so well. Think Vic Toews's beloved online spying bill, which went AWOL because of withering public condemnation.
Or how about the con from the McGuinty Libs at Queen's Park? They know that exhaust from the diesel trains they plan to use for their west-end rail expansion is potentially carcinogenic, affecting 300,000 people and 75 schools within a kilometre of the tracks.
But they intend to build it that way anyway and tell us not to worry because one day, maybe eight or 80 years from now - who knows when? - they'll switch to clean electric trains. It's like saying, "We're going to knowingly dump toxins in your drinking water. But chill, in a decade or so we'll go green."
This one really ain't flying. Indeed, as I go door to door along the rail corridor with my Davenport NDP provincial colleague, Jonah Schein, inviting people to the Clean Train Festival Saturday, we hear almost unanimous condemnation of the government's plan to greatly increase diesel rail traffic in the west-end corridor, the first step being a link from Pearson Airport to Union Station.
Call it a billion-dollar toxic white elephant aimed at shuttling mostly out-of-town businessmen from the airport to downtown hotels. The service will make only two stops, tickets will cost 15 to 35 bucks a pop (depending on the day's rumours out of the province's regional transit agency, Metrolinx), and the line won't even link to a subway until Union, where you'll have to pay a TTC fare to get on.
This colossal wasted opportunity becomes a doomsday report when you factor in the health costs, both short- and long-term, of breathing in noxious particulate.
Are the McGuinty Liberals pulling a Wildrose and now doubting the science pointing to diesel's potent carcinogenic effects? So why are they just choosing to ignore alarm bells raised by Toronto's medical officer of health and the many studies proving that the micro-particulate from diesel exhaust has a knack for embedding itself in lungs - particularly children's and the elderly's.
And so, building on the great work of the Clean Train Coalition and communities along the West Toronto Railpath, volunteer organizations responsible for putting this issue on the public agenda in the first place, a renewed mobilization has begun linking concerned residents with nearby schools, businesses, social agencies and progressive politicians. With loads of volunteer help, games for kids, food and music by the likes of Wayne Petti of Cuff the Duke and string band Alberta Darling, not to mention yours truly, the Clean Train Festival is going to be a party with a purpose.
Simply put, we need every citizen who cares about this issue to let the premier know that enough is enough. We need mass public transit expansion that is clean, accessible and affordable. Any new transit needs to meet these criteria. The air-rail link fails all three.
After being in Parliament for a year now, I've seen how the power of public engagement and protest can change a government agenda.
See you all on the Railpath.
Andrew Cash is NDP MP for Davenport.