Private sector will provide ONTC services – by Rick Bartolucci – Ontario Minister of Northern Development and Mines (May 18, 2012)posted in Northern Ontario Politics, Northern Ontario Separation and Alienation |
Our government’s decision to divest the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission was a difficult one that was made after careful deliberation. No other government has done more than ours to try to make the ONTC viable.
We have invested more than $430 million to date — almost three times the funding provided by the last two governments combined. And while our support has increased, revenues generated by ONTC continue to decline and ridership is stagnant at best.
At a time when governments all over the world — including Ontario — are financially stretched to the limit, we must focus our limited resources on priorities such as education and health care.
And for Northern Ontario, we need to protect the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, which is a known job creator for every community along the Highway 11 corridor and, in fact, all of Northern Ontario.
I know the divestment decision has caused some uncertainty for passengers and ONTC employees in the 13 communities with ONTC operations. Given the longstanding presence of the ONTC along the Highway 11 corridor, I understand the emotional reaction this has provoked and the concern of workers with regard to next steps.
I met with some northeastern Ontario mayors in April to clarify issues of concern and strongly encouraged them to share their ideas as to how we can best move forward. I look forward to their input. Our government is certainly open to creative thinking and new ideas regarding divestment.
During my meeting with the mayors, I reiterated that while the process is just getting underway and will take time to complete, there is a great deal of information they can reinforce within their home communities:
. Our government will ensure key transportation services continue in the North, including the Polar Bear Express train service from Cochrane to Moosonee and bus service to communities served only by the ONTC;
. We are honouring all pension commitments per existing legislation;
. While it is too soon to determine what the impact or benefits resulting from divestment will be, we will continue to work to maximize opportunities for Northerners.
Allegations by some that the ONTC assets will be sold at bargain basement prices are just plain inaccurate. These assets are valuable and we are working through a careful process to maximize opportunity on all fronts.
In addition, I am confident that more efficient and sustainable services can be offered through the private sector.