There has been much hand-wringing about how the NDP has lost the votes in small and medium sized communities that were once the backbone of their support, particularly in Western Canada. Even a look at the 2011 results will show this. They fell well short of their 1988 high-water mark in BC and Saskatchewan, where they took a majority of seats in both provinces. In 2011, the Conservatives won BC, while the NDP failed to elect a single MP in Saskatchewan. The federal NDP hit its high-water mark in Manitoba in 1980. They only won 2 seats in Manitoba in 2011, down from 4 in 2008. So what accounted for this failure? Is there something that can be done?
I propose that making investment in railways would be a crucial component of a strategy to not only win back this Western Canadian vote, but could also be key to making inroads in Alberta, rural Ontario, and the East Coast. Communities in Western Canada grew up around the railroads. As the railroads in Western Canada were dug up, and lines abandoned, the fortunes of the communities followed. The consolidation of the grain handling business into inland terminals hurt small farmers badly. We need to invest in this once again. It will allow trade between regions, and breathe new life into the small communities. More young people may see a future for themselves without having to go to a big city (and we've seen with covid how cramming large populations into cities is not necessarily good for health). Or take the issue of "Western Alienation." Calgary is a major urban centre in Canada. Why do they not have any passenger rail service? The Calgary-Edmonton corridor is very busy with travel. Why is there this talk about high-speed rail from Quebec City to Windsor when there isn't even passneger rail service along this Alberta corridor? With the need for more public transportation in the face of climate change, rail transport is a crucial component. The NDP has already spoken to public transportation needs in urban settings, let's expand on that by helping out smaller communities. Finally, when having this discussion, let's not repeat the mistakes of the past. Let's engage respectfully with the many First Nations, and partner with them to not only provide transportation options that meet their needs but that also respect their traditional lands and way of life.