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February 17, 2009

The Globe and Mail: Dean's Train is Officially a Ghost Train

I'm pretty sure this was the funding announcement that Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro was anticipating when he assured area residents as recently as a few weeks ago that ground would be broken in 2009 for the much-talked about Toronto-Peterborough rail extension (a project that has recently earned the nickname "the ghost train" around town).

Problem is, a train that doesn't head any further east than Markham isn't going to score many points with the voters who were railroaded into voting for Del Mastro by his promise to bring the train to Peterborough.

It would appear that the ghost train has met the same unfortunate fate as the ghost battery plant. Guess that leaves the ever-optimistic voters of Peterborough Riding with just two of four Del Mastro campaign promises to pin their hopes on: the constitutional amendment regarding property rights and the resort complex for Little Lake -- both far-fetched but not officially dead yet.

Return on campaign promise investment (current stats):
2 out of 4, just four months post-election.

Rating: Not impressed. Not surprised.


GO Transit infrastructure investment details (Government of Ontario press release)

Comments @ Maclean's Magazine about potential for Montreal-Toronto high-speed rail: A couple of readers can't figure out where Peterborough would fit into the picture, except as a political-point-scoring pitstop: "Dean likes this route to Ott/Mtl because his riding is along the way." "Despite the fact I would love and use a Peterborough stop, it should go along the lakefront." "I’m a big fan of high-speed rail but when it comes to Dean Del Mastro - what a chooch(oo)!"

Metrolinx: The Big Move: Regional Transportation Plan: Peterborough is included in the long-term plans (15 to 25 year time frame). These are the immediate plans. Of course, all this has to make its way through the provincial government approval process. And anything can happen when the infrastructure fairy godmother is dropping taxpayer money from heaven.


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Much unhappiness about the lack of funding for water/sewers from a neighboring riding.

"Reeve Neal Cathcart is scratching his head, wondering why Cavan-Monaghan Township didn't get a nickel from the recent infrastructure announcement."


If Dean Del Mastro was smart, he would wash his hands of The Little Lake development. Right or wrong this development wreaks of political interference , since it would be developed on Federal Lands.

Oh yeah, Russ -- one more thing. Dean Del Mastro was carrying around a model Go Train on the campaign trail. It was really cool. It was fully functional (or as functional as a train can be when it's a toy and it goes around and around in circles). Was that just a campaign visual? I think a lot of people were visualizing a GO TRAIN.

What mental picture of a train should we be carrying around in our heads? A VIA Train? A CN train that's been retro-fitted for passengers? Pls advise. Thx.

Russ -

Thanks for your comments.

Just to clarify some of your facts:

The preliminary MetroLinks documents released pre-Christmas indicate that there's no demonstrable need for a train from Toronto to Peterborough anytime in the next 15 to 25 years. (See previous blog posts on this subject.) [Note: This is their opinion, not mine. I'd love to see a train in this area.]

I realize that DDM is doing everything in his power to lobby for anything resembling a train (because his political future depends on that train). I've heard about the revised train via Orillia. I've heard about possible passenger uses of commercial lines. I've heard all kinds of creative scenarios. And it could be that our MP's political colleagues will save his political soul yet, by coming up with the dollars for the train. Jim Flaherty tried to pull a train out of a hat and circumvent the provincial transportation planning authority right at the get-go. Would I be surprised if that happened again at the end of the day? Umm, no.

As for the battery plant issue, The Peterborough Examiner did not print a retraction the next day. The gentleman stated that (1) the original proposal would not be going forward; (2) another proposal might be going forward with other parties; (3) he had stepped forward during the election in part to back DDM's campaign. (Don't you wish you had friends like these?)

Re: The Little Lake Resort. The timing of the release of the proposal (and our MP's reluctance to release the name of the developer to the public) became a major/contentious issue in the election. There were dozens and dozens of letters sent to The Peterborough Examiner during this time, questioning whether our MP had any business being involved with such a proposal (a proposal that had been in the works behind closed doors for two years, according to media reports). Other issues raised included environmental concerns, tendering protocols, why the MP was involved in such a hands-on way with a local development issue, etc.

Re: the landowners' rights issue -- when Parliament finally gets down to business, we will be able to see where our MP goes with this issue.

Water improvements are a good idea, of course. And long overdue.

Re: the bridge. I think there are more important priorities. $12.5 million is an obscene amount of money to spend on a bridge, given the high rate of illiteracy and poverty in this area.

Some additional considerations:

In 15 months, childcare funding in Ontario will run out and 22,000 subsidized childcare spaces will be eliminated. Those low-income families won't be able to afford to work. The alternative? Welfare.

In Peterborough, the Health Unit is facing a $130,000 shortfall in its program to provide visits to moms and newborns. Those visits head off all kinds of problems.

The EI program needs dramatic reforms now, as thousands of Canadian families lose their jobs each day.

I could go on and on -- but I won't. I've been filtering my comments to politicians who listen. (None of my correspondence to our MP has ever been answered or acted upon.)

One other point I should add, while we're talking about giving credit where credit is due. A Parliamentary democracy allows for the formation of coalitions -- a message that was almost lost as a result of irresponsible messaging from the PM's office right on down to the local level. I give Dean Del Mastro full credit for the role he played in that campaign.

Ann Douglas

This was a great post, you sure got it right. We will soon see bumper stickers sprouting up around town : "Peterborough's Ghost Train " !

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