North Bay City Council agrees that Ontario Northland would be in a better position for growth if it fell under the protection of the Ministry of Transportation.
The rail company is currently the responsibility of the Ministry of Energy Northern Development and Mines.
Council voted unanimously in favour of a motion put forward by Councillor Mac Bain requesting a letter be forwarded to Premier Doug Ford and the Cabinet, to investigate moving the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission to the MTO.
“You would think automatically any transportation related industry would be under the guise of the Ministry of Transportation, which it’s not,” said Bain.
“So, we’re hoping that the Premier and the cabinet will agree to the transfer, much the same as they’re looking at doing in Owen Sound. They’re transferring the ferry system that’s there from a commission over to the Ministry of Transportation. So, we’re hoping there is a precedence that is being set.”
Bain says using the talents of two organizations that deal with transportation in the north will make both entities better.
“The Ministry of Transportation has an office that is headquartered for Northern Ontario right in North Bay,” said Bain.
“So, there would be the ability for both parties to grow and be stronger because of the relationship between the two.”
Bain’s motion received the support of Unifor Local 103 representing Ontario Northland employees.
Both the union president and vice-president made a presentation to city council.
“It has been a duplication of services across ministries. So financially the move makes sense. It makes sense because we are a transportation agency. The MTO looks after our northern roads, so there is going to be some collaboration and some connectivity that can happen between our rail systems and our road systems,” said Unifor Local 103 vice-president Jane Krajc.
“The MTO covers all of Ontario, and we need to be in a place where we can share information with them. We can also create synergies between the agencies that they oversee such as Metrolinx.”
Union president Andy Mitchell says for the 15 to 20 years it has been fighting with its current ministry “just to hang on to what we had.”
“We have great synergies working with Metrolinx which is part of the MTO. We’re working together with them in regard to bringing back passenger rail service. So, we might as well continue doing it,” said Mitchell.
“You look at reports that Metrolinx has done to bring passenger rail in the south, and they’re getting huge contracts to expand it. So, we could work with them and hopefully we can expand here in the north as well.”
A few months back, Mitchell wrote a letter to Premier Doug Ford explaining why the company would be better served under the MTO.
“The premier did write back, and he said he was going to forward it to the ministers and I’m hoping to hear from them shortly. Hopefully we can get something moving in regard to this.”
When asked for a comment, an Ontario Northland spokesperson responded saying it is an operator of transportation services, and that any questions should be directed to the provincial government.