Work continues to secure railway funding
Published Wednesday, September 12, 2018 5:19PM EDT
A delegation from Sault Ste. Marie met with the province recently about funding for rail improvements on the Huron Central line, but they didn’t get any firm answers.
Earlier this year, the company said it would close a line between the Sault and Sudbury by the end of the year if it didn't receive government support.
When a local delegation from the Sault met with the province to talk about funding needed to Huron Central Railway running, Greg Rickford, the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, was non-committal.
"I am reading it in with some rail opportunities in the northeastern side of northern Ontario and will be in a position to comment on that a little bit more substantially in the not-too-distant future." said Rickford.
With the current government only coming to power in June, members of the HCR task force in Sault Ste. Marie say they aren't surprised the matter isn't resolved yet.
"It's not unusual how this has played out, but yes, we are reaching a critical point in time. They said by the end of the year if we don't have any subsidies we'll close, but it's the employees I understand that will have to be notified by the end of October." said Steve Butland, HCR task force member.
The group says it is cautiously optimistic that the provincial and federal governments will come through with the $40-million needed for rail improvements.
Nearly a decade ago, the same situation took place, and in that case, many jobs were saved in Nairn Centre, Sault Ste. Marie, and Espanola.
"Particularly Espanola. 500 people's jobs are at stake for this one and obviously what would that do to Espanola? That would be like Algoma saying there is no more steel mill in Sault Ste. Marie. It would be devastating." said Butland.
"Those industries and those jobs at risk. More transports perhaps on the highway causing more accidents, requiring more repairs to be done to the highway, more pollution being put in the air. There is every good reason why both levels of government need to react to our request fairly soon." said Joe Fratesi, member of the HCR task force.
He emphasized the need for positive news from the province before taking the issue to Ottawa.
Members of the railway task force are hoping to meet face-to-face with Minister Rickford in the next few weeks to discuss the matter, in hopes of securing funding to keep the line operational.