Budget passes, ONTC fate sealed – by Kyle Gennings (Timmins Daily Press – April 25, 2012)

 The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

NDP backs down on ‘regional issue’ to avoid election

The fate of Ontario Northland is not worth triggering a provincial election. This was the message from MPP Gilles Bisson (NDP — Timmins-James Bay) minutes before stepping into the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to push the much-criticized Liberal budget forward.

“We will allow the budget motion to pass by not voting against it,” said Bisson. “We are essentially choosing to abstain from the issue. We aren’t voting for it because this is still a Liberal budget and there are still things in this budget that we don’t like.”

The provincial NDP are choosing to sit this one out, said Bisson, taking what they can from the budget for the province and hoping that the ONTC doesn’t fall through the cracks. A leap of faith, some might say.

“At this point, people don’t want an election, so we made some amendments to the budget and we are allowing it to move forward,” he said. “If the budget motion was to fail today, we would be in an election by this afternoon.”

Bisson and his party feel that the last thing Ontarians need right now is an election based purely on a regional issue like the sell off of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission. So he and his colleagues will let the issue skate.

“We had two choices, we could do what Tim Hudak did and throw up our hands and say ‘Hey, do you want an election?’” he said. “We could do that, or we could roll up our sleeves and work hard to try and find compromise with the government and allow them to go ahead with their budget and move to the next step.

“We are rolling up our sleeves.”

With those forearms bare, Bisson said he and his party have managed to secure $260 million in extended funding for issues such as hospitals compromised by the healthcare funding change.

“We compromised with what the government wanted and now we can try and move forward,” said Bisson. “It isn’t a deal on the budget, it’s an agreement to get to the next step.”

The ONTC is another story.

“The big disappointment is the ONR, I am very disappointed, I thought it was a no-brainer. All we are asking for is $24 million to keep the railway running,” said Bisson. “The government was clear through this whole conversation that they were not going to budge on this. Every meeting we had we raised the issue, it was shot down.”

While Bisson feels that he fought to the hilt, other Northern leader say it isn’t that simple.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Timmins Daily Press website: http://www.thedailypress.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3542979

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