HSR hostage to hydrocarbon legacy

HynesB88X146.JPGBy James G. Hynes
Today's G&M brings me up to date on where Ignatieff stands on high speed rail (HSR) for the Windsor-Quebec corridor, via a garbled column by the ROB's Quebec reporter, Konrad Yakabuski, who often displays an anti-Quebec tilt. He says Ignatieff's endorsement of HSR is just political HSRPowell90X39R.jpgposturing. (Evidently, Ignatieff's new book True Patriot Love makes the same argument I've been making, i.e., a daring gamble on rails created this country, and we need to rediscover that creative attitude now.) What's interesting is the reason Yakabuski says Ignatieff is just blowing smoke. He claims the HSR project won't happen because we'd have to bail out Air Canada, Westjet and Porter when demand sank for their Montreal-Toronto services! Right, and by the same token, we'd better stop developing hybrid and all-electric cars, or we're going to have to bail out Suncor, Imperial Oil, etc., etc., and all the makers of gas-guzzling cars and trucks. Let's not make any reckless moves HSR%20Thrash%20Merchant71X2L7.jpginto more efficient technology, because our first priority is obviously to keep that carbon dioxide spewing! This argument is easily dismissed as idiotic, but his second is stranger still. He takes as a given that an HSR link HSRVelaro58X41R.jpgbetween Montreal and Toronto would be "eternally unprofitable." How he manages to reason that air travel between these cities can be profitable, but vastly more efficient HSR somehow wouldn't be, is truly dazzling. Of course, he HSRGuidotoni68X54L.jpgcites no evidence for this view, because there is none. Instead, he compares the Canadian project to Spain's much larger investment in a complex national HSR system, rather than with directly-comparable projects such as France's hugely-successful Paris-Lyon TGV. So nay-sayers do exist, but if their objections are as silly as Yakabuski's, it looks like Ignatieff may be serious about HSR, and willing to make it a prominent plank in his platform.

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