Transportation tops list of election issues in Gaspé region
Candidates in Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine outline their plans to solve region's transportation woes
CBC asked voters in the riding of Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine which election issues matter the most to them and then put their questions to the candidates. Here are some of their answers.
What's the state of transportation? Is there any real hope?- Ken Moore, Douglastown resident
"I really miss the train…. Now I'm forced to use the airlines, and I find the prices are pretty high, but it's the only thing left for me to do. I could drive myself, but at my age, 82, I find it's just too much to hit the highway and go all the way to Toronto and Montreal. That's where my family is. I would ask [the candidates] what's the state of transportation? Is there any real real hope?" — Ken Moore, Douglastown resident.
The Via Rail passenger train has not made it to Gaspé since December 2011.
The poor state of the tracks forced the cancellation of rail service, and now trains stop in Matapédia, a four-hour drive from Gaspé. About $100 million needs to be invested in the rail infrastructure to make it safe for passenger trains.
Since the purchase of Orléans Express by the transport company Kéolis, bus service to the Gaspé has diminished throughout the region — and ceased between Gaspé and Chandler on the Baie des Chaleurs.
A return Gaspé-Montreal flight costs, on average, $1,000, and Air Canada has cancelled three return flights to the Magdalen Islands in September and October. The flights were supposed to leave Montreal with stops in Quebec City and Gaspé along the way.
The candidates respond
Jean-Pierre Pigeon says train service to the region is not a priority for him. Given the older demographics of the region and huge size of the riding, he says his priority is building longer landing strips for planes. This, he says, would allow larger planes to land and could entice more companies to start flying to the area, possibly resulting in more competitive prices.
Pigeon says he wants to see longer landing strips in Gaspé, Ste-Anne-des-Monts and the Magdalen Islands.
Philip Toone says he is committed to bring Via Rail service back to the Gaspé. As a temporary solution, he suggests using a single locomotive/passenger car known as a 'bud car.' He says the key to the rail's success is to have corporate clients as well as passenger service.
"The problem with the rail is that there are no clients. We can't justify all the money to fix the rail… if there are not going to be users," Toone said, referring to the lack of businesses making use of the railway.
He says a slow return of Via train service would show other businesses they can trust the rail service will be reliable.
Toone also says part of the problem with transportation is that people in the region don't have the money to travel because of the poor economy.
Diane Lebouthillier says if her party were to invest in transportation, it would be in the road network and bus service. She says it is unthinkable, even impossible, to count on a return to rail service within the next year, given the infrastructure upgrades required.
She also says Gaspé needs a longer landing strip to welcome larger planes.
Nicolas Roussy proposes making air and bus travel more affordable by cancelling the security tax paid by airlines for flights to Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands and cancelling the federal gas tax for bus transportation to the Gaspé.
Roussy does not see a return to passenger train service as a priority, but he would like to see a tourist train between Gaspé and Percé. However, to achieve this, he says the province needs to invest the money to fix the tracks.
Jim Morrison, Green Party candidate, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine
The Green Party had not yet registered a candidate when the CBC was in the Gaspésie--Îles-de-la-Madeleine riding.