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March 11th, 2022

NDP: Liberal plans to privatize passenger rail will cost Canadians

OTTAWA – Today, NDP Transport Critic Taylor Bachrach (Skeena–Bulkley Valley) and Tax Fairness and Inequality Critic Niki Ashton (Churchill—Keewatinook Aski) are expressing concerns that the Liberal government’s proposed High-Frequency Rail project could lead to the privatization of passenger rail service between Toronto and Quebec City which will make life more expensive for Canadians.

“Canadians have been waiting decades for a fast and reliable passenger rail service. After years of announcements and promises, people are shocked and troubled by what the Liberals are planning for passenger rail service in Ontario and Quebec," said Bachrach. "New Democrats already have concerns given the involvement of the government's failed Infrastructure Bank, but this is also concerning as it looks like the total privatization of passenger rail service on the busiest route in Canada. The Liberals are prioritizing the private partner's profits and considerations over the needs of Canadians who want efficient, affordable green transit. The government made this decision without any consultation and it's Canadian commuters who will pay the price."

Documents released by the government about the upcoming project indicate that the private partner will be given extensive responsibilities which include leading the design of the new rail line and construction of the project, but also operating and collecting revenue from the new passenger rail service once it is running. The government also plans to transition existing Via Rail services to the private operator once the project is completed.

Detailing the extensive role for the private sector in the High-Frequency Rail project, the newly released document says that, “the private sector has the opportunity to help shape the specifications of the HFR Project that they would ultimately operate and maintain” and suggests that they will be entitled to receive revenue from operating the rail line.

“It's clear the Liberal government forgot that they were elected to serve the needs of the people--not to maximize profits for companies and their shareholders," said Ashton, who pointed to her private member’s bill, C-245, as an alternative to the Liberals' privatization agenda for funding infrastructure projects. "We've seen time and time again how disastrous public-private partnerships can be when governments hand over responsibility to the private sector. But that's exactly what the Liberals are planning to do. Passengers are going to pay the price for this privatization, with more expensive tickets and poorer services. We need to strengthen the infrastructure Canadians rely on and keep it in public hands. That's why we're proposing legislation that would ensure infrastructure projects are properly funded and remain in the hands of Canadians that depend on them.”