Northern Ontario pushes McGuinty to reverse $122-million Metrolinx contract – by Tony Van Alphen (Toronto Star – July 9, 2011)

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Furious municipal politicians in Northern Ontario are pressing Premier Dalton McGuinty to reverse a $122.6-million GO Transit car refurbishing contract with a Quebec firm because they argue a Crown company in North Bay should have won it.

“It doesn’t make much sense,” North Bay Mayor Al McDonald said Friday about the recent decision by Metrolinx, another Crown-owned agency that owns GO.

He warns if the decision by Metrolinx, the GTA’s transit agency, proceeds, it will kill hundreds of jobs in his city and could have significant negative political implications for the governing Liberals in the fall provincial election in Northern Ontario. The Liberals currently hold six of nine northern seats while the NDP represents the other three.

“It flies in the face of their own policy for economic rejuvenation in the North,” said McDonald, who has been rallying other municipal leaders against the deal. “This would be a very difficult decision to defend.”

McDonald, other northern politicians and union leaders say although a bid by the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission in North Bay is $2.5 million higher than one from a Montreal company, the economic benefits for the province are much greater.

“On taxes alone, the province didn’t factor in the loss of almost $8 million,” he said. “So in fact, taxpayers have to pick up an extra $5.5 million when you take into account Northland’s higher bid by $2.5 million.”

McGuinty is away on vacation and the premier’s office passed inquiries to Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne, whose staff indicated the ministry would not be intervening.

“”Metrolinx followed an open, transparent procurement process using the government guidelines for government agencies and the contract was awarded to the lowest bidder” said Kelly Baker, communications adviser to Wynne, in an email.

“Ontario’s procurement practices provide Ontario businesses with non-discriminatory treatment when bidding on procurement opportunities across Canada and internationally. This significantly expands opportunities for Ontario businesses.”

Metrolinx is close to signing off on the five-year contract with Canada Allied Diesel Railway Industries of Montreal for refurbishing 127 cars. The transit agency’s board approved a staff recommendation for awarding the work last month and management expects to accept final documents within two weeks.

Metrolinx president Bruce McCuaig said the agency applied a competitive, transparent tendering process using quality, service and price as the key criteria.

McCuaig noted that Ontario agencies also have a provision for Canadian content of 25 per cent on transit infrastructure projects to benefit the economy, but it does not distinguish between provinces or territories.

There are no other provisions for addressing economic benefits in the process, he said.

“We followed the basic principles of procurement policy.”

But McDonald said if Ontario Northland, which is near the end of its current refurbishment contract with GO, doesn’t find replacement work, the company will have no choice but to lay off most of its 109 workers. That would, in turn, affect employment for another 220 workers who provide supplies and services, he said.

“The impact here would be like Toronto losing 10,000 jobs,” he said.

In a second letter to McGuinty on Friday afternoon, McDonald said his city has calculated the job cuts over five years will mean a total economic loss of $260 million “all for $2.5 million.” difference in the winning bid.

For  the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website:–northern-ontario-pushes-mcguinty-to-reverse-122-million-metrolinx-contract