The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.
TIMMINS – Municipal leaders across Northeastern Ontario are taking the gloves off to fight plans to derail Ontario Northland in September.
Kapuskasing Mayor Alan Spacek, president of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) expressed “frustration and bitter disappointment” with the government’s handling of its divestiture plan for the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission. He is pointing the finger squarely at Northern Development and Mines Minister Rick Bartolucci (Liberal — Sudbury).
“I received correspondence from the minister updating me on the divestment process that was to have been ‘transparent and done in a consultative manner with those affected,’” Spacek said. “As it turns out, we get called to a meeting to hear that something we thought we were to be consulted on is now a done deal.
“It’s become another late-in-the-week, trying-to-fly-below-radar announcement that otherwise wouldn’t stand up to either the smell test or to public scrutiny.” Spacek, who ran as a Progressive Conservative candidate in Timmins-James Bay in the October 2011 provincial election, said the ruling Liberals broke their promise of transparency with ONTC privatization.
“The province has blind sided every community in Northeastern Ontario with a cavalier decision made behind closed doors in Toronto,” he said. “This will negatively affect future community, industrial and economic growth in Northern Ontario by closing the Ontario Northland Railway in September 2012.”
Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren, vice-president of FONOM, said Queen’s Park doesn’t understand the importance of the ONTC to the region.
“This will have a devastating effect on industrial development in Northern Ontario towns and cities where industrial output is shipped to market by the ONTC,” Laughren explained. “We thought someone from (the provincial) government was listening to the people from the North who understand the importance of the ONTC — but this was clearly not the case.”
He expressed disappointment with Bartolucci’s handling of the issue.
“We had asked the minister to involve municipalities in the process to maximize returns and minimize negative impacts on our communities,” Laughren said. “Now, we’ll have to deal with the mess for local and provincial taxpayers that the province is making of this divestment.”
Spacek said damage caused by the divestment in the Northeast will go beyond rail travel.
“Another hole in Northern Ontario’s infrastructure that the province is likely creating is the sale of Ontera,” he said. “In most divestment opportunities, companies try to get the best price they can on the sale of their assets. By putting Ontera on the chopping block, the market will try to lowball their bids for this money-making company.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Timmins Daily Press website: http://www.timminspress.com/2012/08/21/ontc-sell-off-sparks-fighting-words