Truckers ask federal transport minister to end speculation on railway subsidy proposals (September 10, 2001)

by Canadian Shipper

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) has written to federal transport minister David Collenette asking him to end weeks of rumors and speculation on the status of railway proposals to use taxpayer dollars to move more Ontario Highway 401 freight by train.

The Alliance was responding to media reports suggesting the federal government is considering a proposal from CP Rail to divert traffic from truck to train using taxpayer dollars to pay for new rail lines. This comes on the heels of an earlier proposal made by CN president Paul Tellier that would use federal funds to subsidize rail shippers.

While details of this latest proposal are sketchy, they point to a $ 2 billion scheme to subsidize railway intermodal operationsan amount equivalent to what truckers and motorists in Ontario pay in federal fuel taxes each year. The reports quote government sources as saying it is being pushed from ‘within’.

David Bradley, chief executive officer of the Alliance said that the reports are creating confusion and concern in the industry. According to Bradley, these rumors risk derailing transport minister Collenette’s Transportation Blueprint consultations.

"A few months ago, transport minister Collenette asked our industry to join him in developing a ‘blueprint’ for transportation in Canada," said Bradley. "In light of persistent rumors suggesting that Transport Canada is pushing for rail-friendly subsidy programs, we’re left wondering whether the minister’s mind is not already made up."

Bradley says that the minister owes the men and women who work in the trucking industry some assurances that their taxes aren’t going to be used to put them out of a job.

"Not only has the Canadian trucking industry helped drive Canada’s trade-based economic growth by providing safe, timely and affordable transportation services to our country’s manufacturers, but it also employs over a quarter of a million men and women right across this country. They now want to know if their jobs are on the line."

"The minister should answer a simple question: does he support using taxpayer dollars to subsidize rail operations?"

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