On CN’s decision to dismantle Pontiac rails


Open letter to Stephen Harper, Prime Minister; Pauline Marois, QC Premier; and Claude Mongeau, CN Rail President and CEO:

Open letter to Stephen Harper, Prime Minister; Pauline Marois, QC Premier; and Claude Mongeau, CN Rail President and CEO:
The Pontiac has not yet been able to recover from the forestry crisis that crippled the region in 2008 and we know we are not the only community under siege. Since the closure of the Smurfit-Stone paper mill, we have spared no effort to find solutions and have done so without any involvement on the part of our governments to date.
Today, we say: “Enough!” This battle goes far beyond saving a simple rail line. It is the battle of an entire region struggling to survive.
After the forestry crisis, the government helped revive paper mills in the Outaouais and Témiscamingue. Not so in the Pontiac, our mills, plants and our paper mill closed down without any intervention by government.
In transportation, millions of dollars were invested in the Outaouais in road infrastructure such as autoroutes 5 or 50. As for the Pontiac, Highway 148 in the Pontiac is still excluded from the Quebec strategic road network, thus preventing us from having official tourism infrastructures.
In tourism, the Outaouais has been designated as the ‘gateway to Quebec’ according to the province’s tourism development plans. The federal government has tabled plans for the reconstruction of the bridge at L’Isle-aux-Alumettes. To this day, the Quebec government shows no sign of involvement in the project either in the interests of the Pontiac or of the province.
Pontiac rivers include five major hydro dams distributing electricity mainly in Ontario without any contribution being returned to our region by the state for the use of our natural resources.
Nevertheless, for the past three years, we have fought on all fronts to position the Pontiac. Our vision for our future has led us to position the Pontiac in sustainable development so that our children may have the opportunity to grow up in a region that had the foresight to develop with the technologies and infrastructures of the future.
The impact of dismantling the railway is not limited to the industrial park. Much as CN boasts of supporting environmental action, according to its website, in dismantling railways CN apparently accepts its part in increased air pollution due to encouraging truck transport over rail. As for the government of Quebec, it is not only endorsing the increased risk of highway accidents, it is also proving that it lacks the vision to battle global warming.
The Pontiac is visionary. China, Europe and the United States of America base their industrial development on rail and piggybacking. In Canada and in Quebec, railways are being dismantled. Bombardier, one of the largest manufacturers of trains in the world, with its head office in Quebec, must export because its own province and its own country lack the vision to preserve and encourage the development and growth of rail service on its territory. The Pontiac is not waging this battle for the benefit of a small interest group. It is merely positioning itself in a continuously developing world where those who will stand out will be those who kept their railway.
By preserving our rail, our industries will be able to transport their products to Ottawa in 45 minutes to then connect to a vast North-American network. I invite governments and the president of CN to take another look at the map. It’s fairly clear that the Pontiac is not a dead end.
To CN shareholders: On December 12, 2012, Bill Gates increased his CN shares for what is today equivalent to $4.7 billion. Mr. Gates is himself the head of a Foundation that ‘believes each person deserves the opportunity to live a healthy and productive life’. Mr. Gates, this is precisely what the Pontiac community is trying to do and I hope you will allow us and walk with us as we work to make our dream a reality.
Mr. Harper, Mme Marois, we are not asking you to increase social assistance or unemployment benefits in our region. We are simply asking you to become active and dependable partners with a region that seeks to become the master of its own destiny.
M. Mongeau, we do not ask that you understand Canadian and Quebec rural life. We do however ask that you have the courage to equip your corporation with a vision of sustainable development.

Michael McCrank
MRC Pontiac Warden