Minister Northern Development and Mines Rick Bartolucci
As elected officials, MPPs should ensure their constituents are apprised of the facts. With regard to the planned divestment of the ONTC, Northern MPPs Vic Fedeli, Norm Miller, Gilles Bisson and John Vanthof have not.
There’s a saying, ‘Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts.’ These MPPs say one thing when in the North and do another when at Queen’s Park.
I met with Fedeli twice on this issue and at no time did he ask the government to stop divestment. Since this announcement was made last March, Fedeli had 248 opportunities in the Legislature during Question Period to challenge our government on this. Not once did he do so. He hasn’t been clear on what he would do if his party formed government and whether he would be supported by his party, including his boss, Tim Hudak.
None of the other MPPs mentioned here have asked to meet with me.
NDP MPPs Vanthof and Bisson did not vote against the divestment via the provincial budget process. During her visit to the North this week, NDP leader Andrea Horwath admitted that she was not willing to go to an election over it.
When in government the NDP cut subsidies by $5 million, closed ONTC’s trucking business (Star Transfer), reduced bus service, reduced passenger train service and eliminated plane service (NorOntair) to several Northern communities. The PCs sold NorOntair, reduced annual subsidies by $11 million and tried to pull the plug on the ONTC altogether.
The facts about the planned divestment can be found at www.mndm.gov.on.ca . In the meantime:
• No other government has worked harder to make the ONTC viable – we’ve provided two times the funding provided by the previous two governments combined - and we’ve explored sustainability options. Not only has the North never been forgotten by our government, it’s always been very much on the radar - with strong northern ministers and MPPs with deep Northern Ontario roots working hard for this great region.
• Ridership is almost without exception below 50 per cent capacity. The services are under-used and subsidies are unsustainably high - at a rate not seen elsewhere in Ontario. The subsidy per Northlander rider is roughly $400.
• The need for sky-rocketing subsidies in excess of $100 million per year will continue to grow if we do not act now.
• We’ve always said bus service would continue for communities without other transportation options and that the Polar Bear Express would continue.
• In the current fiscal environment, we must ensure tax dollars protect effective Northern programs such as our $100 million Northern Ontario Heritage Fund which supports job creation projects throughout our region.
• There is substantial private sector interest in ONTC. We will proceed carefully with an eye to ensuring maximum opportunities for Northerners.
• Staff from my Ministry and the Ministry of Transportation has met with companies with questions regarding freight rail services. These companies will be invited to participate in our comprehensive Multi-Modal Transportation Strategy.
• Currently, we are working with Northern stakeholders to develop this strategy to meet present and future Northern transportation needs in a sustainable manner. We are about positioning our great region for further growth by moving forward.
Rick Bartolucci, Minister
Northern Development and Mines