While debating a bill about railway safety, Alan Tonks spoke about the Georgetown tracks that run through Weston. But he did not criticize them; in fact, he seemed to be their booster. And he is misleading or mistaken about important matters of train regulation.
Tonks said that
The greater Toronto area is choking on congestion…. Commuting distances have become longer and longer, and the result is that the pollution created from the congestion is a health and safety issue…. The capacity of the road system to accommodate the trucks that are hauling and distributing goods is becoming more and more impeded. So rail, whether in terms of freight or urban commuting, offers a huge opportunity.
It is difficult to disagree with public transit (though Rob Ford has found a way). But, of course, supporting transit does not mean supporting transit operators. In particular, transit lovers do not need to support divided communities and the pollution that comes from diesel trains.
And while Tonks supports electric trains, he appears to think that the concerns of his constituents are misplaced and that they need to be reassured. He said:
We must absolutely close the loop so there is no question in the minds of the public that we are dedicated to not only using the rights of way, but using them in a sustainable way and in a manner that is going to protect the public.
In 2008 the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities made 14 specific recommendations, which, with a bit of editing, provided the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities the necessary tools, as the Minister of State for Transport has said, to regulate railways and ensure their compliance.
I hope I have given a little clarification and provided some comfort to those who may be watching. With the changes in rail and the projected role of rail, we are bringing in a regime that is going to operate in the higher public interest in terms of air quality, safety and the return that goes back to the public in Canada. [My emphasis]
Tonks is wrong. That report should provide no comfort at all to Westonians. That report discusses train crashes. It discusses inspection and reporting, and is relevant to the bill he was debating. But it does not discuss sustainability, and it does not even mention pollution.
The report Tonks cites does not contribute to operating “in the higher public interest in terms of air quality”, and so the comfort he seeks to provide rather cold.