For the entire twentieth century Cape Breton Island was a hive of activity, churning out steel rails like silk from a spider’s belly to be woven into a global web of railways. There is no better example of irony, however, as Cape Breton Island’s very own railway now sits abandoned. These days there is more blame to be laid than rail, but I am not going down that track. Instead, I am imploring the federal and provincial governments of Canada and Nova Scotia to act on reason and logic.
A section of the Cape Breton and Central Nova Railway is for sale. It is time for government action. Instead of spending millions of dollars to either court a potential buyer or to decommission the line, the government should view this as an opportunity to invest in the future of the region and purchase this section of railway. Like any capital investment, I (a taxpayer) would expect to see a return on this investment within a reasonable period of time. A government owned and operated rail line would create new economic export opportunities for the region, in manufacturing, mining, energy, transportation, agriculture, etc. These new opportunities, facilitated by the rail line, would potentially create thousands of jobs and generate millions of dollars in tax revenue each year for generations to come.
Railways are essential infrastructure, no different than ports, highways, power lines, or sanitation. Without this infrastructure, the region’s population is unsustainable. Though Canada’s ports and railway’s have been privatized by varying degrees since the 1970’s, they are recognized as having critical importance to the country’s economic performance, as shown in this 2014 Transport Canada discussion paper: http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/ctareview2014/discussion-paper.html.
If you care about the future of Cape Breton Island and see the logic in this approach, please share this with your friends and open the dialogue.