NDP tries to leverage deal with Liberals to halt sale of ONTC – by Mark Prior (Timmins Daily Press – April 16, 2012)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

Support motion or face election, McGuinty government told

MPP Gilles Bisson (NDP — Timmins-James Bay) says his party has presented the Ontario Liberals with an ultimatum in order to avoid another provincial election.

The Dalton McGuinty government can vote to support the NDP’s budget motion by the April 24 deadline — or face the likelihood of seeing Ontarians go back to the polls. Bisson said the motions put forward by the NDP includes a plan to save the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission from divestment.

A key concern is how dismantling the ONTC will hinder the potential for Northeastern communities to tap into the mining and economic opportunities being created in the Ring of Fire, within the James Bay lowlands.

“We were extremely disappointed when Mr. McGuinty and Mr. (Rick) Bartolucci announced they were going ahead with the divestiture, which means only the lucrative parts of the ONTC are going to be taken over by the private sector, and the subsidized parts will be gone,” said Bisson.

“The Ring of Fire is a huge opportunity for Northern Ontario. If the province took the position of helping develop infrastructure to the sites, it will reduce the cost of building the sites for the mining company and, we can say, in exchange they can process their chromite and nickel in Ontario and deal with the price of hydro in Ontario.”

Given the choice, Bisson said his party would rather reach a settlement with the Liberals than go to an election. However, that is now up to the Liberals, he added.

“The government has a choice. Do they want an election? It seems to me they have a decision to make. People would rather us negotiate a solution than have another election. The current polls all say essentially a minority government will happen again because there are three or four points between the parties with the Conservatives first, us (NDP) second and the Liberals in third.”

Bisson said talks between the NDP and McGuinty government are underway. He said the Progressive Conservatives have already decided to vote against the budget leaving it now up to the NDP to cause the government to fall.

“The Conservatives have essentially said they won’t discuss or do anything in order to try to move the government,” said Bisson. “We decided a different approach which (NDP leader) Andrea Horwath has put forward, which is sitting down with the government and putting forward a number of proposals, including not divesting the Ontario Northland.”

The fate of the ONTC is note the only NDP’s only concern with the Liberal budget.

“We’ve made it very clear to the government, this budget is unfair on who balances the books, and that” reducing the debt “shouldn’t be done on the poor and the backs of the working class,” said Bisson. “And that’s essentially what this budget does. For example, we put a 2.0 surtax to be applied on incomes over 500,000, which would raise about $550 million and help with diverting some of that to the deficit and for initiatives like the ONTC.”

Bisson said his party also has concerns with government grants to businesses.

“If we’re going to have grant programs, there should be conditions to make sure it is only used for job creation. If that business goes away, they should give the money back. It’s our taxpaying dollars.”

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