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Few details following ONTC meeting

By JENNIFER HAMILTON-MCCHARLES, The Nugget

Few details are being released following the latest Ministerial Advisory Committee meeting on the Ontario Northland Transportation Committee.

 

Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development and Mines, was in North Bay Monday to deliver funding announcements to three municipalities.

 

But it was what happened earlier in the day local media was most curious about.

 

Gravelle wouldn’t give specifics, but he categorized the talks as the “most frank and useful meeting and discussion that has taken place so far pertaining to the ONTC.

 

“We understand what an important part of the economy the ONTC is. We are spending significant time looking at the realities of an organization that is challenged, that is not being able to see its revenues increase while its costs have increased, we need to find solutions to that,” he said.“We will continue to look at multiple options. There’s still work that needs to be done and no final decisions have been made.”

 

When asked what those specific options could include, Gravelle said potential partnerships, divestment and other alternatives.

 

“The bottom line is consistency. How can we move the ONTC forward and see it continue to be a sustainable organization, an efficient one and one that will continue to have the option and potential to grow?” he said, following Monday’s funding announcement at Jack Garland Airport.“We all agree the status quo isn’t an option, we’ve agreed on that a couple of meetings ago.”

 

North Bay Mayor Al McDonald agreed that it was a frank discussion, but there is still plenty of work that needs to be done.

 

He said there’s a lot of information that needs to be digested and the impact is going to be huge for North Bay so it has to be done right.

 

“When I mean we had frank discussions, I mean they were frank.”

 

Gravelle said discussions with labour will be an important part of the process moving forward.

 

ONTC’s contract with Canadian Auto Workers Local 103, whose members work in the shops, stations and clerical positions and make up about half the ONTC employees, runs out at the end of 2013.

 

Agreements with other unions at the ONTC run through 2014.

 

Gravelle wouldn’t say when final decisions pertaining to the ONTC might be made.

 

“We still have a fair amount of work to do. We are going to continue to investigate multiple options so I am not in a position to put a time frame on it,” he said.

 

“We are very determined, I am very determined to get this right. Our goal is to see a sustainable, effective and efficient ONTC. We want to make the right decisions, we’re conscious of how many jobs are at play here.”

 

The Ontario government announced in March 2012 it was divesting the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission. The Northlander, a six-days-a-week passenger train service connecting Cochrane to Toronto, was discontinued at the end of September last year.


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