City plots ONTC strategy – by Gord Young (North Bay Nugget – March 25, 2012)

An uphill battle to save Ontario Northland Transportation Commission jobs gets underway Monday.

Mayor Al McDonald has called a special meeting of council for 6 p.m. in response to Friday’s announcement that the Ontario government plans to sell the Crown agency, which employs more than 950 people across the Northeast.

The meeting is expected to involve presentations from union officials, John Strang, president of the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce, ONTC chairman Ted Hargreaves and president Paul Goulet.

“I think its important that the community understands where we stand on this issue,” said McDonald, suggesting divestment of the ONTC will be devastating for Northeastern Ontario.

The province has said it can no longer afford to pour money into the operation and is seeking new providers for ONTC services.

It’s unclear exactly how divestment will impact the region, but many expect massive job and service cuts.

“They’re selling off the nuts and bolts. They’re selling everything,” said McDonald, noting ONTC headquarters, its shops and its train and bus terminal in North Bay are all threatened. “Will there be some jobs left over? Maybe. But we’re talking about 1,000 jobs in the Northeast. This will have a definite impact on all citizens.”

Strang said chamber executives will meet Monday afternoon to discuss the news and formulate a position that he will bring forward to the council meeting.

“I’m hoping that we will come up with a couple of strong motions calling on the premier to do what’s right,” said Strang.

McDonald said he believes ONTC unions and management should be given the opportunity to run the operation.

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