Minister of NDM Rick Bartolucci
The province is moving forward with a new era of transportation and telecommunications services for the Highway 11 corridor in Northeastern Ontario.
The divestment of the provincially owned Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) was announced in March 2012. Important steps are now being taken in that process, including:
The Northlander train from Cochrane to Toronto will stop running after September 28, 2012. Regular train service will continue until that date. Every community served by the Northlander train is also served by ONTC bus service that will continue to run as usual.
The Polar Bear Express train service will not be affected and will continue to provide the same service to rural and remote communities between Cochrane and Moosonee.
The Niska I ferry, which sails between Moosonee and Moose Factory Island, is being transferred to the Owen Sound Transportation Company, with no changes to service.
Ontera, a telecommunications system operating in Northeastern Ontario, will be the first ONTC business line put up for sale. Infrastructure Ontario will be inviting interested buyers to submit their qualifications to purchase Ontera.
An environmental assessment exemption has been granted for all activities of the ONTC divestment process; however, Ontario’s strong legislative and regulatory requirements must still be met.
Funds used to operate the ONTC are better spent in helping tackle the deficit, protecting the province’s gains in health care and education and in valuable Northern Ontario job creation and infrastructure programs such as the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and the Northern Highways Program.
“In a time of fiscal belt-tightening, we cannot afford an inefficient and expensive government-owned transportation and telecommunications system. This is an historic opportunity to deliver innovative and sustainable solutions that meet the needs of Northerners now and in the future, and help foster private sector investment and economic growth across the Northeast.”
— Rick Bartolucci, Minister of Northern Development and Mines
“Today’s announcement shows commitment to a better, more sustainable transportation and telecommunications system for the Northeast. This process is about offering an opportunity for the private sector to provide services in a manner that can stimulate local economies in the North, create jobs and provide viable transportation options.”
— Ted Hargreaves, Chair of the Board for ONTC
Since 2003, Ontario has invested over $430 million in the ONTC ─ increasing the subsidy provided to the ONTC by 256 per cent. Based on current trends, supporting the ONTC today would require annual support of approximately $100 million ─ compared to $27.6 million in support in 2003.
The Growth Plan for Northern Ontario features a Multi-Modal Transportation Strategy, which includes the development of an integrated air, rail, marine and road strategy.
In keeping with the government’s commitment to improving transportation in Northeastern Ontario, the province has completed the four-laning of Highway 11 on time, and it is now fully open to traffic.