Often, this newspaper is against municipal councils joining every organization that comes along just for the sake of councillors padding their expense accounts. Often, representation is not needed.
Such is not the case with the Community Rail Advocacy Alliance. The Town of High Prairie and Big Lakes County should be joining this organization.
The alliance is stressing the importance of access to railroad transportation, which is an ongoing concern for municipalities and businesses in the Peace for years. Agricultural producers, logging companies, and other large producers from the region bank on reliable train service to get their product to market.
Members so far include the County of Northern Lights, Northern Sunrise County, Town of Peace River, M.D. of Greenview, City of Grande Prairie, Mackenzie County, County of Grande Prairie, Athabasca County, Saddle Hills County, Town of Whitecourt, Town of Slave Lake, Town of High Level, M.D. of Peace, Town of Edson, and Westlock County. The full story is on page 3.
Why not Big Lakes and High Prairie? Why not Smoky River region governments? We have two large lumber mills near High Prairie, not to mention agriculture, oil and gas, that need rail to ship product to market. As the alliance says, rail service is vital.
The West is very critical of the federal government and their ineptitude in not building pipelines to get our energy products to market. Currently the world is starving for energy products and the West – particularly Alberta – is being left out in the cold. We could be far more prosperous if we could product more product and get it to market.
The same argument can be made regarding raw materials and goods produced in the Peace. It is one issue to produce a product, but if you can not get it to market to sell, what is the point? The alliance realizes this.
“The municipalities and the industries that have created this alliance are coming together to bring together a unified voice to decision-makers in Edmonton and Ottawa and within CP, CN, and its regular,” says Northern Sunrise Deputy Reeve Carolyn Kolebaba.
There have been problems. Rail service does fluctuate. At times when energy prices are high, shipping grain by rail is not as profitable and the farmers are left in the cold. The same applies as energy drops and agriculture booms. Somehow, rail service must be consistent in providing both industries the opportunity to transport goods to market. It only makes sense.
And if we have to band together as municipalities to ensure it happens, we should be all-in.
Besides, as Kolebaba points out, “It was a guarantee in Confederation that we would (have) service of rail, and it is severely hampered by the business of CN and CP to the pockets of their shareholders.”
It is something worth fighting for. Big Lakes and High Prairie councils should be lending its support and joining and the sooner the better.
Together, more squeaky voices can make a loud noise.