Selling ONTC will hurt Northern Ontario – by Madeleine Tremblay (Sudbury Star – April 11, 2012)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

Madeleine Tremblay is the Mayor, Township of Fauquier-Strickland (Cochrane District)

The province’s announcement March 23, to divest of all business lines of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission came as a complete surprise and left us dumbfounded as to why our provincial government would deliver such devastating news on the heels of so many promises.

As minister responsible for the development of Northern Ontario, Rick Bartolucci should have argued with his caucus that consultation take place with northern municipalities and communities. This simple consideration could have provided opportunities for different solutions. Instead, his government ignored our multiple pleas for inclusion with decision making, which affects our livelihood and future.

Who will now look at Northern Ontario as a good place to invest, when the most economical way of transportation is being pulled out? The Northern Ontario Growth Plan included statements on improving all transportation models. Now the plan has to be re-written or, was the exercise just a smoke screen to hide the real agenda and plan of the government towards Northern Ontario?

What will happen with the Kapuskasing paper mill, our telephone long distance services, increases in traffic and maintenance of the TransCanada Highway? What about increases in motor vehicle accidents? What about our future? So many questions, so many uncertainties and no support from our provincial government.

Between the Far North Act, the Planning Act, reduction in wood allocations to the forest industry, the woodland caribou and wolverine habitat protection plans and all other rules, regulations and acts that works against a prosperous Northern Ontario, it is enough evidence that the Liberal government wants to drive people and investment out and away from Northern Ontario.

The decision to divest ONTC’s assets will have a far more negative impact on Northern Ontario and the provincial economy than the government was led to believe. Has any thought been given to what the private sector would do with those assets if a buyer is found? How would anyone like to spend 13 hours, crammed in a bus to attend a medical appointment in Toronto, after being referred to a service only available there?

At least the Northlander provided a comfortable ride to our destination.

The premier promised plans for more job creation programs. Where and how does this decision fall within the job creation plan?

The Liberals did not hesitate when it was time to save the auto industry or provide Toyota Canada with a $75-million subsidy for a new product. Apply the same logic they applied to the southern auto industry and provide real commitment and confidence to Northern Ontario.

Northern Ontario has always taken the hardest blows when it comes to government service reductions and cuts.

If the governments wants to find ways to reduce expenditures, start cutting the fat from provincial programs or eliminate them, such as the “Newcomer Champion Awards,” the “Lincoln M. Alexander Awards” and all other awards programs and their associated staff.

We therefore call upon the Ontario government to cancel its decision to divest ONTC and engage in a true dialogue with all northern community representatives, with objectives in finding practical solutions in making the ONTC a champion and leader for economic development in Northern Ontario.

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