Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Recently, Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May has been taking a "retro" approach to her campaign in the federal election and has been traveling across Canada by train. It hearkens back to days of yore when populist politicians would ride the rails and make speeches at various stops, both small towns and big cities alike.

In May's case she is also trying to promote the green alternative of rail travel, rightfully pointing out the need for more passenger rail service in Canada. This is a point I have pondered as well at times, and I have often wondered why in an age of pending oil scarcity and climate change we aren't investing more resources into developing high speed and efficient trains in a similar vein to what already exists in many other places in the world?

Yes, I know that North American cities are more spread out and that freight is seen as being more profitable than passenger service. I do think though that when there is a will there is a way, and logically if train service was more efficient and accessible more people would use it. This would cut down emissions substantially, and provide more time for people to read, daydream and perhaps ponder life while taking in the magnificent Canadian landscape unfolding outside their window

In BC, part of the preparations for that corporate monstrosity known as the 2010 Winter Olympics has included inconceivable amounts of money being spent to upgrade the Sea to Sky Highway which connects the resort town of Whistler with Vancouver. To do so they had to blast away countless tons of rock, and even destroy some ecologically sensitive bluffs. Yet there was no thought given into upgrading or making more efficient the existing rail lines that are already in place between Vancouver and Whistler.

Anyways, I do hope that May can promote further dialogue around this issue while on the campaign trail. Even beyond this, I think it is kind of cool that she is at least doing something a little more attuned to our history than the random appearances made by the other candidates in a different region each day as they seemingly zig zag across the country.

I am pleased that at least May is engaging in something that provides a bit more of a coherent narrative, symbolized by the long stretches of rail that have historically linked us as a nation, and have provided a psychological connection point for many across the vast expanse that is Canada.

1 comment:

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Very well put, WW! One of the joys of traveling through Europe is taking the train so effortlessly. To take the train in Canada is not only near to impossible in some places, but also horribly expensive. And yet it is such much more environmentally sustainable method of transportation.

Good for Ms May on setting an example.