Small towns not so important to Bay Street Conservatives

It is difficult to come up with positive spin on what is happening in parliament.   This past week we heard excuses as Canada ran far from the pack at the international climate change talks; received a court ruling that explicitly stated the Conservatives broke the law when they killed the wheat board; and to top it off, we learned that Transport Canada will divest itself of properties that include many smaller airports.

The government’s plan will make rural towns less accessible and hurt families’ pocketbooks.  Smaller communities rely on having transportation options available to connect them—and their economies—to the rest of Canada.  This plan to sell off the airports ignores this reality and will only make communities more isolated.

The level of ground services in parts of the country have already declined dramatically, largely because of the privatization of CN Railways and the reduction in Greyhound bus connections. This development will only compound the problem and increase our reliance on cars while further limiting the options of many who do not have a vehicle.

The policy will not just affect smaller communities.  Airports like Toronto’s Pearson International are currently run by government appointed arm’s-length agencies.  Privatization will make them less responsive to both travelers and their local community.   It will certainly increase the fees that are paid in addition to ticket prices. 

To hear the Conservatives talk about it, they are just ‘managing corporate assets’ and ‘saving the tax-payer dollars.’   These are weasel words that don’t sound much like the reality of the situation, which is they are further eroding the viability of smaller communities.

In question period the Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Transport said that supporting small-town airports was, “not in the benefit of Canada.”    The implication for the people and businesses affected will be significant and that is how they speak about it.  Either costs will rise dramatically or airports will disappear.  Budgets are tight all over, but this threatens to reduce some to ashes.

To give an example of how political these choices are; this is the same government that refuses to save taxpayers money by chasing down offshore tax-cheats.  They even cut the number of inspectors that return five dollars for every dollar spent.  Pursuing the cheaters actually does save honest taxpayers a lot of money.  Instead, the government sticks its head in the sand and does a big favour to their wealthy friends who have enough money to hide offshore.

Instead they choose to save money by dramatically challenging the well-being or rural Canada.  We cannot all live in and around major cities.  For that reason alone, the government should take a long hard look at their fire-sale plans.   Too much is at stake and they need to listen to other voices and opinions before proceeding.  If not, we will be picking up the pieces for a long while.