Not Canadian enough, eh?

HynesB88X146.JPGBy James G. Hynes
Monitoring the high speed rail scene is becoming rather boring. Apart from the odd squib from Europe or Japan, (where they actually operate HSR systems rather than just talk about them), everything my daily Google Alert turns up is about the scramble in the U.S. to get slices of Obama's HSR-development pie. Mixed into this are occasional objections, almost all of which argue that HSR is bad simply because it won't pay for itself. These pieces are often well refuted by others pointing to the manifold ancillary benefits of HSR, which more than offset any shortcoming in direct revenues. What seems painfully obvious at this point is that there are good cases for HSR in half a dozen North American locations, one of which is definitely the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto line, and another may be the Edmonton-Calgary corridor. Both of these are viewed as more financially viable than other prime candidates (such as Boston-Washington and San Francisco-San Diego) because the routes aren't so densely built up, so it's easier to create a dedicated HSR right-of-way. But while the U.S. media are churning out a torrent of stories about potential lines in both clearly viable and non-viable locations, the Canadian media rarely touch the subject. HSR isn't even on the radar in Canada most of the time, let alone on anyone's agenda that matters. It looks to me that this is a boat Canada is determined to miss, even though we're home (sort of) to one of the world's leading HSR companies.
For a moment there, it looked like Iggy was going to revive the Liberal Party, and HSR might have been a prominent plank in his platform. Considering that he's up against a guy with all the charm of a federal tax auditor in a bad mood, he didn't have to be another Obama to look like a promising alternative. But no. I didn't think it was possible to be less alluring than Harper as a political pitchman, but Iggy's non-performance this summer has proven me wrong (yet again!). Is this a man who's going to light a fire under HSR, or green measures like a carbon tax, or anything else for that matter? I don't think so. The Liberals got rid of a guy who definitely had a vision, but lacked the capabilities to articulate it successfully. Iggy's vision, it seems, culminated in his ascension to the leadership. Now that he's in the saddle, he's keeping the horse in the barn. And they say he isn't Canadian enough! Click here to read more of Jim Hynes on the compelling case for Canadian high speed rail.

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