There’s still time to save the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission yet. That’s the message being sent from the New Democrats at the public meeting held at the Centennial Hall last night. MPPs John Vanthof, Gilles Bisson, MP Charlie Angus, Mayor Tom Laughren and ONR Union head Brian Kelly gave a detailed status update on the divestiture of the ONTC and it is clear from both sides, public and political that people feel trampled on by the McGuinty government. But there is hope, if all of Northern Ontario speaks with one loud voice of their displeasure with the move; action is likely to be taken. Bisson suggests calling, emailing or using social media, Facebook, Twitter, etc, to get the message to Minister Bartolucci and Premier McGuinty.
Vanthof urged residents to speak out alongside their politicians. He says there’s only so much a single MPP or MP can do, but the people have the greater numbers and if there is dissent being heard from all of us, Queen’s Park will take notice. He says it worked with the Diary Board and the attack on Thornloe Cheese, it worked for the Adams Mine and it will work for Ontario Northland.
Mayor Tom Laughren says it’s not only mayors that realize there’s no real plan or thought behind the divestiture.
Laughren understands the need for Ontario Northland to be restructured, just not sold.
The head of the union representing workers at Ontario Northland admits there’s a need for change at the top. Brian Kelly says none of the workers want there to be status quo; rather a better, more efficient leadership structure and a say in how they feel ONTC should be run. Kelly says a privately-owned ONTC would spell disaster for jobs and services in Northern Ontario. He adds there are some key steps that must be fulfilled for ONTC to move forward efficiently.
Kelly says no private company wants to run a railroad the way ONTC is being run now; it is a surety that the new owners will gut the company killing at least 1,000 jobs.
The next steps could be defining moments towards the goal of preventing the sell off of the critical infrastructure running through Northern Ontario. MP Charlie Angus says there is an eight month window of opportunity for everyone to come together and force the government’s hands on the issue. Right now the government is taking stock of all the assets under the ONTC and it’s expected that come early spring 2013, all documentation will be handed over to Infrastructure Ontario, who will handle the sell-off. The NDP are urging all residents to stand together now more than ever.