‘Profit motive’ will be CN Rail’s epitaph

The corporate disconnect from the community is complete

To the Expositor:

The announcement by CN Rail not to operate a special passenger train service along the Algoma Central Railway (ACR) to help property owners winterize their dwellings from damage, nor to permit a one-off hi-rail vehicle on the line for the same purpose, shows that CN has willfully disconnected from any sense of community in Northern Ontario.

It was CN, earlier in 2015, which either thru incompetence or Machiavellian intent, chose a third-party passenger service operator financially incapable of maintaining service between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst. When local stakeholders asked CN to operate service until a new operator could be found, CN said no, and these latest rebuffs make it clear that CN doesn’t care about anyone outside of its railbed or profit margin–a margin that is almost 1 billion dollars per quarter.

While a new third-party operator should restart ACR passenger service by the end of 2015, in the interim, we should turn our gaze toward CN and ask what kind of community member they are. CN has the ability to help local residents, First Nations, and business owners until the new service begins but chooses not to because for CN, like that James Bond film title, the world is not enough.

With the federal riding of Sault Ste. Marie, and majority government, recently going Liberal, it remains to be seen if such will be positive for passenger rail. It was actually under Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, mentors for new PM Justin Trudeau, that CN Rail was privatized in 1995 and began its move away from public duty. Strangely, during his 2015 campaign, Trudeau equated raising taxes on corporations to a form of “hate” toward them and so it’s uncertain he even wants–or is tough enough–to push CN toward public responsibility.

This writer would bet that actual CN railroaders don’t agree with these decisions by their management. Will they take action to support their fellow Northerners? A larger question also remains–does CN deserve to keep its charter for the ACR? Would the North be better served by revoking it and granting it to VIA Rail? The profit motive is a poor epitaph, but if CN doesn’t soon change its ways, the North will bury them with it.

Chad Beharriell

Iron Bridge