Auditor general confirms Fedeli's ONTC numbers - and moreTuesday, December 10, 2013 by: Steve Hardy
Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli
The provincial Liberals failed to fairly communicate the full impact of selling off the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission says Ontario’s auditor general, Bonnie Lysyk.
And the bill could be more than $800 million.
The ruling provincial Liberals, under then-premier Dalton McGuinty, announced in March, 2012 the ONTC was for sale.
High operating costs, including $100 million in subsidies, a non-sustainable business model and stagnant ridership were cited as reasons.
The move could affect as many as 600 jobs in North Bay and 900 in total across North Eastern Ontario.
The government said the move would save almost $266 million, but Lysyk says it could cost $820 million instead.
“Currently it is estimated that known costs and liabilities could be as high as $820 million, said Lysyk in a news release. “This figure could go even higher with the as-yet-unknown costs of environmental clean-up of ONTC properties and the government meeting its duty to consult with Aboriginal peoples.”
Nipissing Tory MPP Vic Fedeli has repeatedly attacked the Liberals for what he calls a “fire-sale” approach.
In the spring of 2013, Michael Gravelle, the new Minister of Northern Development and Mines, announced that he was willing to look at other options.
Fedeli says as soon as he went public with his findings on the cost of divestment, the government changed its tune.
“That day was a game-changer,” he said. “They were caught and they changed their tune. I outed them – there were no savings. It was all about the savings.”
Last week, Gravelle announced the government would now focus on what he called transforming the ONTC, but did not remove the possibility of divestment.
“The ONTC and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines did not have a trusting or open relationship, so transparent communication did not consistently occur,” said Lysyk in a report issued today.
Fedeli says there remains more to come out regarding the timing of the Liberals ONTC dealings.
But the auditor general’s report is a step in the right direction, he said and the ball is in the government’s court now.
“Stop the divestment and do a strategic review of all assets,” says Fedeli. “That’s what we need to do.”