Reaction to MNDM Minster Michael Gravelle’s announcement on the future of the ONTC today was swift and from some parties furious.
Gravelle announced that ONTERA will be sold off while the Motor coach services, PBX, rail-freight and refurbishment sections will remain in public hands which left all parties with concern and questions.
Union reps say they are happy that the Government is not selling the rest of the divisions but question the government’s motives accusing Gravelle of taking the easy way out instead of finding solutions.
“First of all our hearts go out to the people at Ontera,” states ONTC General Chairperson’s Association spokesman Brian Kelly.
“The Minister said he was coming here to bring some certainty as far as we're concerned he brought no certainty.”
“Ontera has been a fire sale for 6 million and a whole bunch of taxpayers’ money going the other way, so we don't know what the deal is.”
“And those people's lives are turned upside down.”
Before Gravelle even wrapped up the announcement Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli sent out a news release stating he has serious concerns about the sale of Ontera in and the future of the ONTC.
“Considering the Auditor General said it will cost the government $820 million to sell ONTC, how much did it cost to divest Ontera? What return did the government get on the more than $20 million previously invested in fibre optic ring infrastructure in Northeastern Ontario through Ontera,” Fedeli asked.
“The Auditor General noted in her ONTC report there would be costs for “subsidies that may need to be paid to potential buyers,” Fedeli added.
“Did this sale in fact cost taxpayers money as we’ve been warning since the fire sale was announced?”
He also questioned what the impact on the local economy will be with the sale.
“For two years, the Ontario PCs have been calling for a strategic review of all ONTC assets and to keep rail freight in public hands,” said Fedeli.
“But it was only after I called in the Auditor General to expose the Liberals’ phony savings claims did the government start to change its tune on its reckless plan for the ONTC.”
North Bay Mayor Al McDonald clearly unhappy that Ontera would be sold off applauded Gravelle for having the fortitude to come the city and the news with the parties involved in person.
“First I want to start with thanking you Minister for being here today to make the announcement and giving us that respect that you're here to deliver this news two years ago we weren't given that respect.”
“This is been a two-year fight for myself as mayor for our council, for the GCA, for the men and women of the ONTC from our community and I think that the one thing that really struck me was that we didn't give up -- even though we were told it was a done deal and I'm very proud of everybody that hung in there and worked together to get us to this point,” McDonald told the crowd thanking GCA Spokesman Brian Kelly and team for always being there.
“It was no secret to the community, no secret to the MAC Committee, it was no secret to the Minister where I stood and that was that all divisions were to remain in public hands and I fought right up to the announcement for exactly that.”
McDonald said while he is disappointed and the Minister is fully aware of his disappointment with the decision of ONTERA he said he will focus on that fight another day.
“I do want to say that it was a big step taken forward for the other four divisions to keep them in public hands and I fully support that. I want to thank the Minister or that decision.”
“The announcement to keep it in public hands is one step the next step is to forge an alliance with MetroLinx because that's the critical piece in what we need to do (and) need to continue to be successful here in the city of North Bay.”
“The ONTC has been headquartered in the city for the past hundred years, actually over hundred years, and I'll do everything in my power that it will be headquartered here in the city for the next hundred years,” pledged McDonald.
“That is for us our current council, future councils, future communities, future union leaders -- never to let down their guard and that it needs to remain in our community because this fight right from the start was all about jobs. And I conveyed that message to the minister time after time after time including this morning.”
“I haven't given up. I'm very pleased that we are able to keep the four divisions in public hands and as I said to the media yesterday it does bring certainty to those divisions.”
McDonald went on to say this is a good first step and that they appreciate the fact that the minister sat down and listened to the committee for over year.
“The minister was being very kind when he said they were candid meetings they were A lot of screaming and yelling actually, but the minister was always respectful and he always did listen to us and I think if you were to ask this GCA they appreciated the minister Gravelle's candidness and willing to work together and I think there's a bigger picture that we all understand.”
An emotional McDonald thanked City councillors for their support of this fight for two years as it took up a tremendous amount of his time and attention.
“To the many women of the ONTC I want to say that I believe in you and I support you and I will continue to do everything I can and we need to continue to push forward for this alliance.”
“I had that conversation with the Minister, he knew I was going to say this today, and I'm asking for his support with MTO that we continue to forge that partnership so that we can secure the long-term sustainability that we need for the ONTC and the ministers agreed to work with us so that was a good sign.”
“It is emotional for me because it has taken so much of my time and there's been so many ups and downs, so many twists from just a year ago that we are going to lose everything and it was going to be closed down, to there being hope and then when there's hope.
“We need the strength and courage to continue to fight for what's right, so I will continue to push for the alliance with MetroLinx to secure that sustainability and I ask for your support.”
“Again to the men and women of the ONTC I know it's been a very difficult two years but please know that we're still in your corner and we're going to do everything we can to secure that alliance with MetroLinx.”