Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Union Station should be renamed after first PM, councillor says

Recently, I deconstructed the new Canadian $10 bill using memory-based historiography to show how Canada's railways are at risk. A few days later, CN announced the end of the Sault Ste Marie-Hearst passenger train, reinforcing my argument.

Now, Toronto City Council is looking to rename Union Station after Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. This would be done to commemorate "one of his greatest accomplishments," the Canadian Pacific Railway. Let us not forget that the Canadian Pacific actually toppled Macdonald's government and brought large-scale political corruption to Canada with the Pacific Scandal. There is no doubt that the construction of the Canadian Pacific was crucial to resisting American territorial expansion, even if NAFTA let the US dominate Canada anyway, and the transcontinental railway continues to play an important role in the Canadian psyche, even if most Canadians never actually interact with passenger trains.

Those in favour of the plan suggest that the station should be renamed to honour Sir John and erase the current name, which is shared by countless stations across North America. While Canada's first prime minister (and a very colourful character to boot) deserves recognition, I do not believe that the station should be renamed. Anyone familiar with public transport in North America will immediately recognise the union station as being the main hub for travelling and renaming it would lead to confusion. As long as GO, the TTC and VIA share Union Station, the name is appropriate. Perhaps more importantly, while Canadian Pacific's name continued to adorn the frontage of Union Station, CP hasn't operated passenger trains since VIA Rail was established in the 1970s. Further, CP do not even have a stake in the Union Station Rail Corridor (oh, you'd need to rename that too) anymore and CP trains haven't used the tracks for the better part of a decade. Once again, it would seem that renaming the station is just another lieux de mémoire commemorating a chapter in Canadian transportation history which no longer exists.

>>>Union Station should be renamed after first PM, councillor says - CBC News<<<

Correction Feb. 5: The original version of this post stated that CP was a co-owner of the Union Station Rail Corridor, the Corridor has been purchased by GO Transit/Metrolinx, so CP and CN are no longer co-owners.