ONTC fight is on – by Kyle Gennings (Timmins Daily Press – April 3, 2012)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

Unionized workers organize campaign to save Ontario Northland

“Ontario Northland is the glue that holds the North together!”  This is the message and platform on which critics of the privatization of the ONTC are launching their campaign upon to save what has been called the 100-year-old staple of Ontario’s North.

The McGuinty government announced their intent to dismantle and privatize most of the crown corporation’s holdings last week during the provincial budget. The news was met with an immediate outcry of anger and confusion.

Brian Kelly and his fellow members of the Ontario Northland General Chairperson’s Association (ONGCA) mustered their strength and are ready to fight the Liberal government for every railroad tie and every metre of track.

“The government likes to comment a lot on how much money they spend, but they don’t like talking about how much money gets put back into the economy,” Kelly said.

“It is just pure economics, if you just do simple calculations on the math, when you do the calculations based on the socio-economic impact study says, we’ve earned $218 million a year, and when you times that by nine years, it is a little over $2 billion that has been generated back into the economy.

“Ridership is up, they say that it is stagnant, but that is a lie, it is a damn lie. Ridership is up.”

Kelly refers to the budget assessment methods employed by the provincial government via the Drummond Report, the report was based entirely on government expenditures to maintain crown corporations like the ONTC, not on the revenue generated by what Kelly feels is an essential service in the North that cannot remain successfully operational if it is operated by separate, private companies.

“They think they are going to spin that off to some private enterprise that is going to do as good a job, the government has underfunded that equipment to a certain point,” he said. “But we’ve been able to provide a half decent service to those communities, they need better, but anybody who thinks that spinning the ONTC off and getting half decent service up in the James Bay Coast, well it just isn’t going to happen.”

For Kelly and his colleagues, the ONTC’s flaws are not news, they understand what needs to be done and have since 2003, when they first approached Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci.

“We took the issue to Minister Bartolucci, he says he’s tried everything … No he didn’t.” he said. “We told him in 2003, here is what you need to do, you need to break us away from MNDM (Ministry of Northern Development and Mines,) we need to have stakeholders on that that need to be experts in communications and transportation, you need to put Northern merit on it and above all you need to put workers on it and get this thing working.”

Kelly firmly believes that the Liberal government is making a serious mistake by bringing the ugly axe down on the ONTC, calling it throwing the baby out with the bath water, a decision based entirely on hasty conclusion.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Timmins Dail Press website: http://www.thedailypress.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3522750