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Flawed Calgary Herald Editorial on High Speed Rail

The July 7th, 2009 Calgary Herald editorial entitled, “Reasons to go slow on high speed rail” on the newly released Alberta government high speed rail study was severely lacking in quality, for a number of reasons.

The argument against high speed rail focused only on a paper by Randall O’Toole of the USA-based libertarian organization Cato Institute. No other research into credible Albertan and Canadian sources was done, and this oversight is objectionable. The Calgary Herald chose not to mention who funds the Cato Institute. The Annual Report by the Institute clearly states that their donations come from General Motors, Toyota, Honda, Volkswagon, American Petroleum Institute, ExxonMobil, and the Charles Koch Foundation, among others. For those who don’t know, the Charles Koch Foundation is the USA’s largest privately-held energy company.[1]

The Calgary Herald also chose not to investigate the background of Randall O’Toole who has made a living arguing against public transit. His weak arguments against rail transit have been strongly rebuffed by well respected Todd Litman, the Executive Director of the Victoria BC Transportation Policy Institute., in his paper entitled, “Evaluating Rail Transit Criticism,” dated April 2009.[2]

Mr. O’Toole’s anti-rail theories, like his attack on Portland’s successful light rail system, have also been dismissed. Read Professor Mike Lewyn’s study titled, “Debunking Cato: Why Portland Works Better Than the Analysis of Its Chief Neo-Libertarian Critic” [3]

Two quality Alberta based studies have been done in the last 5 years clearly showing the economic, environmental, and societal benefits of high speed rail. The 1995 Federal government study on high speed rail possibilities for the Ontario/Quebec corridor also showed that investing in high speed rail is viable in this corridor. [4]

Tragically, the Calgary Herald chose to ignore these professional studies and support the USA auto industry funded Cato Institute diatribe.

The growth and popularity in high speed rail around the world is indisputable. There are 18 countries and counting currently implementing high speed rail. China alone has thirty-five high-speed rail lines, measuring 11,000 km being rolled out in 2009.

Canada is the only G8 country without high speed rail and Alberta has no passenger rail of any kind between their two biggest cities.
There are many Albertans who want modern passenger rail between Calgary- Red Deer- Edmonton. It is hoped in future editorials that the Calgary Herald will rely on Canadian and internationally peer-reviewed studies to support their opinions .
[4] all these studies are available at


  1. Have you considered writing some letters to the editor, or asking for an op/ed slot to rebut this slanted bit of sloppy journalism?

  2. When I read the article I also ended up looking into the cato institute. I was also not impressed with the newpaper and their highly biased choice of an "expert"

  3. Also sitting on the board of directors of the Cato Institute we have:

    David H. Koch, Executive Vice President, Koch Industries, Inc.

  4. fyi - I had sent this rebuttal letter originally to the Calgary Herald and they refused to print it.


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