Retire Rick, urges union – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – August 21, 2012)

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

The association of unions whose 800 members work for Ontario Northland Transportation Commission has asked for Northern Development and Mines Minister Rick Bartolucci’s resignation in the past, but the General Chairperson’s Association is changing its tune.
It is now asking the longtime Sudbury MPP to “do the right thing” and retire from politics over his government’s decision to divest itself of the ONTC. GCA spokesman Brian Kelly said Monday that Bartolucci has represented Northern Ontario well in the last 17 years.
But Kelly said it’s time for Bartolucci to leave politics, a move that might prompt his boss, Premier Dalton McGuinty, to take action to save the ONTC. Kelly charged that McGuinty throws money at the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo, where a Sept. 6 byelection to replace Progressive Conservative MPP Elizabeth Witmer is shaping up to be a game-changer.
One seat short of a Liberal majority, all political eyes are on the riding, which could change the balance of power at Queen’s Park.
“He has done a good job,” said Kelly of Bartolucci, but the union boss slammed the Sudbury politician and his government for plans to get rid of the ONTC.
The battle over the decision announced March 23 by Bartolucci and his government ramped up last week after it was announced Sept. 28 will be the last day the Northlander train will run.
The province has said the communities ser ved by the Northlander will continue to be served by the ONTC’s bus service while a buyer is sought for some of the organization’s operations.
“Divestment is moving ahead,” Bartolucci said Monday. “It’s moving ahead because there is a roughly $100-million-a-year subsidy necessary to keep this thing afloat, and that’s only going to increase as we move forward.”
The provincial subsidy for the ONTC has risen from $27 million a year in 2003 to $100 million.
For every dollar of revenue generated by the Northlander, it costs the province $4 to run it, said Bartolucci. “That’s not sustainable.”
Revenue is down, freight is down and ridership has remained stagnant, said the MPP. In 2003, 329,000 people rode the Northlander. In 2011, that number dipped to 321,000.
Essentially, it costs Ontario taxpayers $400 every time someone rides the Northlander now, he said.
Last week, the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce slammed Bartolucci for his government’s handling of the ONTC. Chamber president John Strang called on Ba rtolucci to resign, saying he “has failed all northerners.”
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