Ontario and Quebec say the dream of a high-speed train link between Windsor and Quebec City may finally be picking up steam — if only Ottawa would get aboard.
On Wednesday, Quebec Premier Jean Charest said the idea, which has been tossed around for more than decade, is drawing more interest from Washington than from Ottawa.
Speaking at a news conference alongside Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Charest recalled that U.S. President Barack Obama has expressed interest in linking to an eventual rail network between the provinces.
When Ottawa was distributing stimulus cash last year, it was targeting infrastructure projects that would generate jobs and kickstart the economy quickly.
'Let's stop a moment to appreciate the situation here: it would, after all, be ironic if we actually did more with the federal government of the United States than we did with the federal government of Canada on developing a fast train.' —Quebec Premier Jean Charest
"Let's stop a moment to appreciate the situation here: it would, after all, be ironic if we actually did more with the federal government of the United States than we did with the federal government of Canada on developing a fast train," Charest said.
"We want to bring our full support behind this project, so absolutely, the federal government needs to be part of this, and every political party we expect needs to speak to this.
"It's that important a project and one that Dalton and I are totally committed to."
The premiers said early research indicates a high-speed train network between their provinces would be viable.
McGuinty predicted a rail link would enhance economic productivity and improve quality of life for 16 million Canadians. "It is a game-changer," McGuinty told reporters in Quebec City.
"So when we build this line here, it's more than just connecting 16 million Canadians together, strengthening our regional economy, better protecting our regional environment.
"It's going to plug us into a North American network of high-speed rail."
Charest said the Obama administration has shown interest in connecting U.S. cities to any eventual bullet-train network in Canada, including routes from Montreal to New York and Boston.
When Quebec and Ontario ordered an update to the feasibility studies two years ago, the federal government offered to take part, Charest said.
But Ottawa has yet to hop aboard.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime, it's a unique opportunity, it is historic and I think we need to seize that opportunity," Charest said.