Mayor sees hope in minister's words on ONTCWednesday, December 04, 2013 by: Steve Hardy
Mayor Al McDonald/File photo
North Bay mayor Al McDonald thinks he finally may see light at the end of the ONTC tunnel.
On Monday, Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle, issued a statement saying the government had changed its mandate from divestment of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, to what he called transformation. He did not, however, take divestment off the table.
“What that signals is they are focusing on how they can make the ONTC sustainable,” says McDonald. “Because we all agree, including the union, the management, the stakeholders, the business model is broken and it needs to be restructured. The focus is on transformation, not divestment.
“That’s the critical piece – minister Gravelle has kept his word.”
In March of 2012, the Ontario Liberal government, under then-premier Dalton McGuinty, announced it would sell off the ONTC, a move that potentially affects 900 jobs in Ontario an estimated 600 of which are right here in North Bay. Low ridership and what the government called “an unsustainable financial path” were key factors in the decision.
Monday’s announcement came as the mayor met with the Ministers Advisory Committee in Toronto with stakeholders, including several Northern Ontario mayors, ONTC officials, two First Nations representatives and industry representatives.
“It was the first time there was significant movement,” said McDonald. “The trip down and back I had a smile on my face. I don’t know how many times I was told to give up.”
Hopes were raised for a more palatable solution back in the spring when Gravelle, who replaced Sudbury’s Rick Bartolucci in the portfolio, said divestment may not be the only option.
“The other key piece is the unions have asked to be part of the process,” says McDonald. “This MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) mandate of transformation will allow the union to have input.”
Ontario’s auditor general Bonnie Lysyk is scheduled to release a report on the ONTC sale next week.
“I’m as optimistic as I’ve ever been,” said McDonald. “That doesn’t mean all the work is done. The change is monumental from what we’ve seen in the last 20 months.”
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For more about the ONTC - click HERE
For text of Gravelle’s statement – click HERE
For Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli’s response to statement, - click HERE