Mayor Al McDonald
Today, the Mayors of the Northern Communities Working Group met with Mr. Rick Bartolucci, Minister of Northern Development and Mines to discuss the Government’s recent announcement relating to the divestiture of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.
The Minister made it very clear that the decision to divest the ONTC has been made.
When asked about his view, the Minister said: “I support the government in this decision to divest”.
There is, without question, a complete disconnect from the needs of the people of Northeastern Ontario and the policy direction the McGuinty government is taking in regard to the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.
A decade ago, Mr. McGuinty signed a pledge to never divest of the ONTC.
He was right to do so then and he is wrong to breach that contract now.
“The Ontario Northland is an essential cornerstone of Northern Ontario’s economic and transportation infrastructure; The privatization of the ONTC will result in local jobs being lost; Privatization will not guarantee local jobs. Once sold, the government will have no control over which jobs are moved out of the North or lost altogether; Therefore I will guarantee the people of Nipissing that my government will not approve or allow the privatization of the ONTC; and I further guarantee that my government will not permit any restructuring plan to go forward that relocates jobs out of Northern Ontario or eliminates transportation services provided by the ONTC.”
That was what his pledge said and it was called:
“Saving jobs, protecting our future in the north: A contract with the people of Nipissing”
We intend to hold the Premier to his word and we expect him to fulfill his contract with the people of Nipissing and across the northeast of Ontario.
We understand times and circumstances change.
As municipal politicians and engaged citizens, we understand the fluid nature of economics and the impacts that economic change can bring.
We also understand this Liberal government is struggling with ongoing fiscal issues that are not entirely of their own making, but punishing the north and selling off the ONTC provides no long-term solutions in regard to the deficit.
We appreciate the meeting we had with Mr. Bartolucci, Minister of Northern Development and Mines, but we still request a meeting with the Premier so he can look us in the eyes and tell us why he is taking this direction.
We heard nothing of substance today.
We asked today, that the divestiture process announced by Mr. Bartolucci on March 23 be paused; that the municipalities and other stakeholders be fully and completely consulted; that the stakeholders be given the opportunity to consider options and alternatives; and that Mr. McGuinty come to the north and explain to northerners why he is breaking his pledge of 2002 and turning his back on the laudable northern initiatives his government proposed in their own Northern Growth Plan.
The time is now for decisions affecting the north to be made with the full consultation and cooperation of northerners.
The Minister today wanted to provide a history lesson, but as stated earlier, times change and we want to discuss the future.
In today’s meeting, it became very evident that the government has no plan in place which addresses the situation beyond the simple decision to divest. They have not contemplated the grave impact on individuals, on businesses, on communities, or on the entire region of North Eastern Ontario.
With more than one hundred years of proud and productive service to the Province, at a minimum, the ONTC and the professional and skilled workers they employ deserve better than the treatment they are currently receiving from the McGuinty government.
We want a new deal for Ontario Northland and we want to be involved in all decisions.