Monday, September 27, 2010

Mark Warawa Responds Directly to AMTRAK Situation

Over the weekend I sent an e-mail to our Langley MP, Mark Warawa. As one can imagine, I was pleasantly surprised to have Mark call me this afternoon, direct from Ottawa. It was about 4:00pm his time and I'm sure it was a busy Monday for him. However, he did wish to explain the government's stand on this issue. Here is a recap of what Mark and I discussed:

  1. Amidst lots of funding requests, our federal government did respond to a request from Via Rail and AMTRAK to fund Customs & Immigration clearance expenses for the additional AMTRAK train ion the evenings during the Olympics because it was viewed as economic stimulus for our region, and at a time that made sense with people pouring into Vancouver.
  2. As the Olympics were coming to a close, our federal government was once again asked to extend the funding for Customs & Immigration clearance for the second train so as to take advantage of further economic benefits as we entered the high tourism season, with the added benefit of folks wanting to now visit our area after a successful Olympic games.
  3. The government has now been requested to continue this funding of Customs and Immigration clearance. They have chosen not to at this time.
Mark explained that our government is currently spending more money than we are taking in (an economic fact). Therefore, all programs must be reviewed and this was one of them. Our federal government did fund this program for many months in the hope of generating some economic benefits and help develop the business case.

Mark explained that just as we pay additional money for air tickets to cover these costs, the federal government now sees this additional train as something that should be funded by the ridership going forward. The government does not have unlimited resources and some programs must be allowed to become self-sufficient.

Now that we know the official position of our federal government (and it is an economic reality today), perhaps Via Rail and AMTRAK can put their heads together to find other funding options to keep the second AMTRAK train going. Perhaps if they added a station stop in White Rock they could add additional ridership. Although I would like to spend my money in Canada, I will not waste time driving to Vancouver and deal with parking there, when I can drive to Fairhaven Station in Bellingham and have safe, secure and affordable parking and ticket price savings.

Again, I would like to thank MP Mark Warawa for taking time out as the end of his busy day to personally respond to my question and that of the membership of South Fraser OnTrax.


Unknown said...

I'm just wondering who covers the customs cost of those driving across? Does it come out of what is collected as gas tax or is the average tax payer covering it. If customs officials are paid out of general revenue at vehicle crossings, shouldn't they be paid through general revenue at rail crossings?

Joe Zaccaria said...

This is a very good question Jeff. I guess we also need to look at the fact that the morning train is cleared by Customs & Immigration as part of their budget. They don't do the same for aircraft.

They could argue that this one clearance per day (that is probably funded from general revenue), is their contribution and over and above what is done for air travel that is revenue neutral. If so, the vehicle crossings seem to receive much more funding. Unfortunately the automobile is still viewed as KING in our society!

Nathan Pachal said...

It is still disheartening to hear that the federal government essentially subsidizes the auto and not sustainable forms of transportation... I wonder what it will take to shift there mindset?