(Editor’s note: A copy of this letter, addressed to federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, was provided to the Journal Argus)
Dear Minister Flaherty:
Citizens of southwestern Ontario are not satisfied with the current level of VIA service.
During a frigid walk in minus 20°C temperatures January 22 at the Stratford VIA station, and at a warmer meeting with VIA officials April 18, citizens have clearly and equivocally voiced their displeasure.
It is apparent that the best efforts of Steve Del Bosco, VIA National Sales and Marketing Manager, are severely hampered by a lack of funds from the federal government.
Southwestern Ontario is an economic driver for Canada. We need VIA service for a number of reasons. Some of these reasons include:
• Provide safe, reliable and efficient transportation for students;
• Provide safe, reliable and efficient transportation for adults and seniors;
• Provide safe, reliable and efficient transportation for business travellers;
• Provide services that support the vital agricultural community and other businesses;
• Provide safe, reliable and efficient transportation for visitors;
• Mitigate road congestion in major cities;
• Enhancement of health and welfare.
With the reduction or elimination of passenger rail service, the federal government is cutting off service to the public and is cutting off rural communities. Those of us that chose rural communities, such as St. Marys and Stratford, never signed up to be cut off from the rest of our great country nor voted to be cut off from the rest of Canada.
Now, we would like to reference and thank you for your letter of Jan. 8, 2013 regarding VIA Rail.
The fact that funds from the excise tax on gasoline are used to support infrastructure does provide an opportunity to allocate some of this tax on maintaining and improving infrastructure for passenger rail service.
You indicated the importance of the environment and public programs and services. Certainly the use of mass transport, such as VIA rail, does improve the environment by reducing the number of vehicles on the road. The result is a reduction in the overall consumption of fuel and resulting carbon dioxide discharges and enhanced safety for those travelling. In addition, a significant contingent of the public require VIA rail service to meet their needs.
Our “Save VIA Rail” group in St. Marys, along with other groups in neighbouring Stratford, are requesting a meeting with the finance department relative to the matter of VIA service. We need VIA Rail. A positive response to this request for a meeting would be appreciated.
Chris West, St. Marys