By: Laura Steiner
Approximately 400 Milton Residents attended a CN information session Wednesday April 4. The session was hosted by Councillors Robert Duvall, Zeeshan Hamid, and Mike Cluett. It was structured as an update on the ongoing battle over the CN Intermodal facility.
Canadian National Railway (CN) owns 1,000 acres in southwest Milton. In 2015 they brought forward a proposal to use 400 acres of that as an Intermodal facility unloading goods from train to truck. As a rail company CN is in a federally regulated industry, and as such have chosen to bypass planning procedures and regulations set out by the province of Ontario, and municipalities of Halton, and Milton.
On February 21, the Region of Halton announced it was launching a court challenge over what it called “jurisdictional issues.” They allege that 26 pieces of provincial legislation and municipal bylaws have been broken. “I believe the railway should be following all the rules everybody else does,” Councillor Mike Cluett told the crowd. Among the local bylaws not being adhered to include: Milton’s noise by-law 133-2012, Milton Property Standards By-law-131-2012, Milton’s site plan control by-law 5-2015. Failure to pay both Local and Regional Development Charges by-law would leave an estimated gap of $153 million.
The meeting had its share of controversy. One attendee only identified as Chris would have liked to hear from the other side. ” Too bad someone from CN couldn’t be here to present their side. Their position, and their information,” he said. CN hosted a breakfast with the Chamber of Commerce. They argue the facility is needed to meet demands for household goods in the western part of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area (GTHA). They are aware of the opposition to the project. “We’re here, and we’re listening,” Janet Drysdale, Vice President, Corporate Development and Sustainability said at the breakfast.
CN Intermodal as a Provincial Election Issue
Councillor Robert Duvall believed the turnout meant support for the opposition to the Intermodal facility was growing in light of the upcoming Provincial election. “It’s really important to get that groundswell with the provincial election coming to say “What is your position on this? I live here in Milton, what’s going on?” Election Day will be June 7, 2018.
Progressive Conservative Party (PC Party) candidate Parm Gill has started canvassing ahead of the election. Gill’s campaign manager has said they’ve heard from residents who live along the roads that will be directly affected by development. The proposed development will be served by over 1500 trucks/ day.
Liberal MPP Indira Naidoo-Harris did not attend the session, but emailed a statement recognizing the importance of the issue. “I encourage the people of Halton Region to take part in the public feedback process that is currently underway. This is an important part of the federal regulatory process about whether the proposed CN project should be approved. Halton has now brought a court Application forward, which the Ministry of the Attorney General is reviewing. That process has to work itself out without any outside interference,” she said. It is expected to take between 12-14 months.
John Meyer volunteers with Milton Says No. He stresses the need to get the word out, and believes the Town needs to use its infrastructure. “I’ve put signs on my lawn, and I’ve talked to neighbours. I can only do so much,” he said. Milton Says No is one of two citizens’ groups formed in opposition to the Intermodal. They are distributing lawn signs at a cost of $4 each. The second is Milton Residents Affected by Intermodal Locations (Milton R.A.I.L). They distributed postcards that could be mailed to federal Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, and Transportation Minister Marc Garneau.
Duvall wants people to become more aware. “Get involved. Make sure you talk to the other grassroots representatives (Milton Says No, and Milton RAIL). Grab a sign. When people start seeing what’s going on, they ask questions. And that’s what we want,” he said. For more on Halton Region’s court challenge visit their website