CBC TorontoOntario Votes 2011

Toronto Votes

Civic Muscle: 'train'ing a new generation of activists

(Part Three of Five)

Keith Brookes
Keith Brooks with his 2-year-old son Callum at a rally in September, 2009.


Keith Brooks, father of a two-year-old, with another baby on the way, has little time for activism. But Ontario's planned air-rail link, from Pearson Airport to Union Station in downtown Toronto, was too good an opportunity to pass up.

And too infuriating as well. The air-rail plan will send 300 or more extra trains a day through his neighbourhood, near Dundas and Bloor, and numerous other neighbourhoods, including Liberty Village, Brockton, Weston Road and Mount Dennis. But the plan includes only two additional stops between Union Station and the airport.

Clean Train Coalition Poster Detail
Clean Train Coalition poster detail (Tony Biddle)

Listen audio ( item runs 6:52 )

Brooks says he and many others who've come together as part of the Clean Train Coalition are first-time activists, drawn in by the opportunities, and by a conviction that as citizens, they could help make it a better project.

Key to that is the fight to electrify the trains. Electric trains start and stop faster than diesel trains, permitting more stops without sacrificing travel times.

The Metrolinx transportation authority says electrifying the trains could add as much as $500 million to a project that is already slated to cost $1.2 billion. Officials also fear that changes now will make it impossible to meet the 2015 deadline for the Toronto Pan-Am Games.

But to Brooks, the worst failure has been the absence of serious public consultation on a project that will affect tens of thousands of people in every community the trains will pass through.

Metrolinx has hosted a series of open houses in those neighbourhoods, but Brooks says they weren't a sincere effort to include residents. "You're just letting the community come in and feel like they're talking to somebody," says Brooks. "But it's falling on deaf ears. Because they've already made their plans."

The Clean Train Coalition has planned another rally for Sunday, Sept. 26. Metrolinx created an online discussion group for the Union-Pearson Rail Link, but the consultation period for the project has passed.


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