“The experienced mountain climber is not intimidated by a mountain -- he is inspired by it. The persistent winner is not discouraged by a problem -- he is challenged by it. Mountains are created to be conquered; adversities are designed to be defeated; problems are sent to be solved. It is better to master one mountain than a thousand foothills.”
~ William Arthur Ward
Employees of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission are experienced government mountain climbers and find once again they must scale and conquer that giant mountain if they are to keep their workplace in the public sector, but have discovered they are not alone in the climb.
During a special meeting of council Monday night , Mayor Al McDonald pledged the city’s unwavering support of the fight to overturn Northern Development and Mines Minister Rick Bartolucci’s decision to divest the ONTC, each councillor guaranteed the standing room only crowd that they stand behind the employees and that the ONTC is not for sale.
“There are great days, there are good days, and then there are days like we had last Friday, March 23, 2012,” McDonald told the crowd.
“That wasn't a great day thanks to the government of Ontario's announcement of their intention to divest of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.”
McDonald went on to say that he has had a crash course about the ONTC over the years.
“In fact, in 2002, when I ran for the position of MPP, I had the honour of campaigning against my good friend and council colleague, George Maroosis. I remember that campaign well for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I was dragged over the coals because of a proposal, by then Premier Eves, to consider the sale of the ONTC.”
“I learned from every employee there and from lots of citizens across the riding, that this was a terrible idea. The more I learned about ONTC operations, the more I realized the importance of this conglomerate to our region and our city.”
“Such a bad idea was it that Dalton McGuinty signed a pledge that if he and his party formed government, they would never divest of or sell the company. Well, times have changed.”
He told the crowd that as Mayor the only obligation he has is to put the needs of the North Bay community ahead of political concerns and party affiliations.
“For me, this is not an issue of Liberal, Conservative or NDP ... of left or right but rather, a matter of right or wrong. I believe strongly that the most appropriate course at times like these is to weigh all the facts.”
“One must look at all sides of the equation before jumping to conclusions or to making rash decisions based on hearsay, conjecture or rumour.”
“As Mayor, I am committed to working with all parties in order to ensure the outcome, of any situation, is in the best interests of the people of North Bay. “
He said it is not enough for people to raise their voices and slam desks in opposition to the news, to turn the tide will require a sound business plan complete with contingencies.
Council agreed and passed a motion to strike a task force comprised of business, management and union leaders who will put the business plan together and plead their case not only to the ONTC Board but to the government as well.
Chamber of Commerce President John Strang says their members stand behind the employees and following an emergency meeting or their board Monday night offered up $5,000 out of their reserves to help employees get the message out.
Strang says the local chamber has reached out to all their partnering chambers in the north as well as calling for an immediate face to face meeting with Minister Bartolucci and called on Dalton McGuinty to guarantee there will be no job losses if the divestment goes forward.
“We were in 100 percent support of doing whatever we have to do to help save the ONTC in North Eastern Ontario.”
“We believe this government has turned its back on the north, we are calling on this government to give this company a chance and take the handcuffs off and let the professionals do what they do best.”
ONTC General Chairperson Association President Brian Kelly says what is happening to the ONTC in the north would never happen in the south.
Kelly says with only two seats in the north the Liberals have nothing to lose by getting rid of the ONTC.
“We ask that the government take the handcuffs off and allow northerners the opportunity to have the ONTC as a standalone crown agency that has northern community stakeholders on its board some sprinkling of expertise in transportation and communications.”
“Allow the ONTC to make its own decisions without bureaucratic interference. At the same time this government must provide stable funding to reinvest in the infrastructure of the ONTC no different than it does in the south to Metrolinx, GO Transit, TTC and the like.”
“So please tell the Premier 'Get your hands off the ONTC'.”
Kelly says they have only begun to fight and the weeks ahead will see a number of strategies fall into place.
“The great thing is we are in a minority government situation here and the opposition has to tell Mr. McGuinty the ONR isn’t for sale and if you want to pass your budget that is one of the things that has to change. That’s got to stop.”