Clean Train Coalition

September 26, 2009 17:10 ET

Gerard Kennedy and Toronto's Medical Officer of Health Criticize Metrolinx Plans

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 26, 2009) - Gerard Kennedy, MP for Parkdale High Park and Dr. David McKeown, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health joined over a thousand protesters today in the city's west end to insist that Metrolinx use only electric trains for the new commuter trains that will run to the airport and Georgetown.

The protesters, which included as many kids as adults, formed a human train that marched along the sidewalks near the tracks. The daylong walk was organized by the Clean Train Coalition to continue the mounting pressure on the government to put in electric trains instead of diesel for the new rail link from Union Station to the airport and Georgetown. The main rally attracted many well-known Toronto city councilors such as Adam Vaughan, Adam Giambrone and Gord Perks as well as Cheri DiNovo, MPP Parkdale High Park, Olivia Chow MP, Trinity Spadina and Irene Atkinson, Trustee, Toronto District School Board.

The provincial transit authority, Metrolinx, is proposing to run more than 450 diesel trains a day through Toronto's west end, making it one of the busiest rail corridors on the planet. The health and environmental impacts that will result from the substantial increase in diesel fumes are at the root of the growing opposition to Metrolinx's proposal.

Gerard Kennedy, who has been silent on the issue until today, now believes the federal government needs to get involved. "I'm here for one reason, to tell you I am against this train. I know the community I represent wants to have good transit everywhere in the city and they want to have it for the people who live outside. Metrolinx has breached the trust of this community," said Kennedy. "If they say it takes a year to do a study for electric trains then nothing should happen here for a year," said Kennedy. "This requires this community to get upset, to get focused, but ultimately to be part of fixing this, of getting a solution that means a better Toronto and not putting up with what we've got from Metrolinx so far." Kennedy continued to say that he will fight for federal funding and a federal environmental assessment. "I will fight for federal funding because the federal government has put almost nothing into transit; $7 billion for transit has come from the province and nothing from the federal government. They need to open up their own environmental assessment because of the public impact that is taking place here, and I'm going to fight for that" said Kennedy

Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David McKeown also came out and was adamant in his opposition to Metrolinx's current plans. "What we know about air pollution in Toronto is that any proposal now should pass a very stringent test before it goes forward. This proposal has not passed that test in my view," said McKeown. "The study, conducted by Metrolinx itself, indicates clearly that there will be impacts on air quality as well as health risks for those that live close to the line."

The Clean Train Coalition likes the idea of expanding rail service within the GTA according to Mike Sullivan, member of the Clean Train Coalition. "All we're asking for is that the government use electric trains. We are opposed to seeing taxpayer dollars spent on diesel trains that will expose our children to the many harmful chemicals found in diesel exhaust," said Sullivan.

Keith Brooks of the Clean Train Coalition, who is advocating for electric trains, said "Even Metrolinx agrees that electric trains are known to be clean, quiet and fast, and run more efficiently than diesel." "Every major city around the world uses electric trains for airport links. We cannot understand why Premier McGuinty has such an affinity for diesel," said Brooks.

Toronto District School Board has also been publicly opposed to Metrolinx's plans and has commissioned their own environmental review of the proposal.

John Gerretsen, Minister of Environment, has until October 5 to determine if the province is willing to accept the health and environmental impacts in order to fast track plans for this rail service.

Quotes:

"The increase of diesel trains proposed by Metrolinx is the most serious threat to our neighbourhood in decades and I'm not going to sit still and let this happen," said Irene Atkinson, Trustee, Toronto District School Board.

"By making the new rail corridor to the airport public and electric the government could meet its environmental, health and transit goals. The hundreds of people marching today understand the benefits of clean, electric public transit! When will the government stand up and listen?" Cheri DiNovo, MPP Parkdale High Park

"We provide a healthy, caring environment for the young children at our nursery school. We need the government to provide them with healthy air to breathe. For the sake of our children we hope that Metrolinx will only proceed with electric trains." Alysa Hawkins, President of My School, Cooperative Nursery School, Roncesvalles Village

"Metrolinx can turn an unpopular, inefficient, polluting project into a win for the environment and the community. They just need to learn to listen." Gord Perks, Councillor Parkdale High Park.

A recent backgrounder by Toronto's Medical Officer of Health is available at: http://www.toronto.ca/health/moh/pdf/metrolinx_backgrounder.pdf.

The Clean Train Coalition represents the communities along the rail corridor. We believe that a healthy environment and vibrant neighbourhoods depend on smart investment in public transit infrastructure. Build it once, build it right! Visit www.cleantrain.ca.

Contact Information

  • Keith Brooks
    416-702-9597
    or
    Mike Sullivan
    416-571-8723
    or
    Lin Grist
    647-290-9298