The future is unclear for more than 950 employees at Ontario Northland Transportation Commission after the province announced Friday it will sell the Crown corporation.
Most of the ONTC divisions — rail freight, rail refurbishment and Ontera telecommunications — will be sold. The Ontario Northlander train service that runs between Toronto and Cochrane will be cancelled and replaced with bus service.
The Polar Bear Express from Cochrane to Moosonee is one service that will remain operational.
The news was delivered by ONTC chairman Ted Hargreaves and Minister of Northern Development and Mines Rick Bartolucci Friday morning in Sudbury. “Divestment isn’t foreclosure. It’s business as usual,” said Hargreaves.
Bartolucci said he suspects there will be plenty of interest in the divisions, but wouldn’t comment on specific deals.
It’s unclear what that might mean for the North Bay workforce.
“It’s too early in the process to determine how many jobs will be lost or gained,” Bartolucci said.
Bartolucci, who joined staff and supporters in North Bay in 2004 to launch the Liberal plan to revitalize the ONTC, defended his decision to deliver the news from Sudbury by saying North Bay isn’t the only city affected by the news.
He said 11 communities will be impacted.
He also defended his party’s support of the Crown corporation.
“No government has tried harder than ours to support the ONTC. We have given $439 million to ONTC since 2003,” Bartolucci said.
He said the government was looking at privatizing the ONTC a few months before the Drummond report was released in February. The report listed 362 recommendations as a way for the government to get back on financial track.
One of the recommendations suggested ONTC’s services could be provided more effectively with private-sector involvement.
Bartolucci said the loss of a more than $120-million GO Transit refurbishment contract to Canada Allied Diesel Railway Industries in Quebec last summer didn’t affect the decision to sell to a Crown corporation.
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