CN Railway: Pontiac County loses court battle, vows to fight on
The CN Beachburg subdivision rail line (pictured) is the final remaining track in the Ottawa Valley. While the fate of the line is still up in the air, indications at this point are that Transport Renfrew-Pontiac’s attempts to purchase the line will be unsuccessful and the line will be torn up. For more community photos please visit our website photo gallery at www.thedailyobserver.ca.
Pontiac County has lost its court challenge to keep the CN Rail tracks in place, but will fight on.
Late last month, a Quebec Superior Court judge ruled against MRC Pontiac in its effort to get a permanent injunction to prevent the railway from ripping up 40 miles of track running through the West Quebec municipality.
Back in March, the county had passed a bylaw which designated the land within the railway's vicinity for "rail use only," which made it illegal to remove or alter the rails within its municipal borders, and enforced that in August with a blockade when CN crews were spotted digging up the lines.
Quebec Superior Court Judge Martin Bédard ruled the bylaw overstepped the MRC's jurisdiction, adding CN followed proper procedure under the federal Transportation Act.
The MRC voted to appeal that ruling at its Nov. 27 council meeting.
Across Eastern Ontario and into Quebec, both CN and CP railways have been dismantling the tracks along what they feel are underused railway corridors, shipping the steel rails out west and other places where the demand is higher. This followed earlier efforts to sell the tracks.
MRC Pontiac, which has been struggling to rebound since the forestry crisis in 2008, feels losing the rails would be another blow which they can not afford to take.
Former Pontiac County Warden Michael McCrank has stated he sees the railway as an key factor in attracting business to the area and providing a way to ship goods to larger centres. The rail would allow industry in the Pontiac to transport goods to Ottawa in 45 minutes, and from there, give them access to North American markets.
It is feared if CN is successful in removing the rails, it would be a death sentence for local communities because businesses won't be able to survive without effective transportation out of the community.
Stephen Uhler is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist