Since the ordeal began, a process has taken place allowing for interested groups to bid on that life-sized artifact. However it has been over six-weeks since the deadline for proposals passed and there has been zero word from the SLPC on what the fate of the train will be.
Regular requests for information to the SLPC have been met with radio silence. When the deadline first passed, the commission declined to give any details about what groups had expressed an interest in the display, how many groups had applied, what the process for disposal would be, and who would make the final decision as to this local landmark’s fate.
Some have argued why worry about this display? Why make the fuss? It’s the process and lack of transparency at the SLPC that makes the issue about a lot more than just an historic artifact.
The SLPC owns or controls vast amounts of government-owned land, attractions, and other historic sites. It operates neither as a crown-corporation, nor as part of a larger department like Ontario Parks. The commission is answerable only to the provincial Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. There exists no real local representation on the SLPC board, or local input into decisions.
A quasi-governmental agency answerable to few, but controlling so much, is not in the public interest. It is not in the interest of those who live in South Dundas. That is why the dispersal process for the train display is not just about a train.
If an artifact or display can be summarily chosen to be disposed of without accountability, what other actions could take place in the future?
The provincial government is in debt and in the process of changing how it supports money-losing enterprises. The SLPC loses money. At the same time, as we’ve seen in Toronto with the Ontario Place redevelopment, there are real concerns about what impact such decisions will have in our community.
The train has been decorated with lights as part of the annual Alight at Night festival again. Enjoy the tradition while you can, as next spring our train may depart Aultsville station for good.