Lisa Raitt staying quiet on Milton rail plan
Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, who is the MP for Milton, isn't picking sides in a controversial plan by CN to build a 400 acre intermodal hub.
March 19, 2015
By San Grewal
Federal transport minister Lisa Raitt is delaying taking a position on a 400-acre rail distribution centre being planned in Milton, where she is the local MP.
But town councillors are dead set against the proposal.
“There’s no decision point for us at all. From my understanding of the Railway Act there’s no decision point for the minister of transport in this issue. The federal EA (environmental assessment) is run by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. That’s under the environment minster,” Raitt said Thursday morning in Milton.
The town’s business and political leaders gathered early Thursday to watch CN’s formal unveiling of its $250 million plan to build an intermodal rail-truck distribution centre in south Milton. After CN’s presentation Raitt was asked, as the local MP soon to be fighting for re-election in a federal campaign, if she will support a project many of her constituents seem set against.
“As the local MP I’m here to see what the community thinks and get the impressions and understand what the process is. But this is a long-term process. This isn’t something I think is going to happen overnight.”
The minister said she first learned of CN’s plan for Milton about six months ago.
Milton councillors gathered at the event, hosted by the local chamber of commerce, and took a firm stance against CN’s plan.
“Milton doesn’t need more warehouses (which would be built in close proximity for access to the massive distribution hub). The impacts are mostly negative,” said Councillor Rick Di Lorenzo. “The site is in opposition to all the local and regional plans we already have. I’m completely opposed to this plan.”
Councillor Zeeshan Hamid raised concerns about the potential harm to residents. “They have not addressed any of the public safety issues or the traffic congestion. They don’t know if they’re going to go south on (Highway) 25 or north right through the town and future development.”
CN said many of the details will be addressed Monday when they submit an environmental report to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. The company will soon be opening up an information office for the project in Milton.
“I live right across from the proposed location,” said resident Rita Post, who told a CN executive during the presentation that property values could go down by as much as 50 per cent. “They have 200 acres in Brampton (at CN’s main intermodal facility for the GTA). This is 400 acres. It could go to 600 or 800.”
CN owns 1,000 acres around its rail line in south Milton, between Britannia Rd. and south of Lower Base Line Rd. Milton officials say up to 1,500 trucks a day could go in and out of the facility. CN has said only 400 acres would be used, so that the rest of the land could act as a buffer for nearby neighbourhoods.
Keith Reardon, CN’s vice president of intermodal reassured the crowd that, “It’s safe, it’s efficient, it’s environmentally responsible,” and that it, “represents the future of transportation.”
He made a case for the shipment of goods into the GTA using trains because it’s a far cleaner mode of transportation than long-haul trucks, and that, overall, it would ease traffic congestion on highways. He also highlighted the economic benefits to the entire region and all of Canada, as mass movement of manufactured goods, commodities and other products, would be done as efficiently as possible, coast to coast, connecting the GTA market to global markets.
He stated that the tax assessment for the town and region of Halton would be $230 million over 30 years.
Milton Mayor Gord Krantz and the town’s CAO William Mann said they want to check those figures and earlier told the Star the town could lose more than $2 million annually from tax assessments if CN’s intermodal hub is built on the land instead of strategic employment.
As a federally regulated entity, CN officials have said they don’t have to adhere to municipal or regional jurisdiction regarding planning and zoning issues. That means CN can ignore Milton’s official plan which sets out a different direction for the land in the area.
“CN has a responsibility, in my opinion, that they should work with the town council on the project,” Raitt said. “Regardless of whatever jurisdiction they fall in, they’re going to adhere to the federal jurisdiction. They’re going to submit their (environmental assessment) to (the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency) that’s what they indicated today - I look forward to that - but they still have to deal with the town council and the region. And what I’m hearing from them is ‘We like a project, but we don’t like it there.’”