Bartolucci should fend off calls for his resignation – by Brian MacLeod (Sudbury Star – September 5, 2012)

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

Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci is right to reject calls for his resignation or retirement in favour of a byelection. He is facing a storm of controversy over the privatization of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, but Bartolucci’s track record more than compensates for the difficulties he’s facing on behalf of a government trying to deal with a $15 billion deficit.
Bartolucci has had a productive career — at least, productive for his riding. It is understandable that people in North Bay, Timmins and Kapuskasing are upset. They’re losing their train service in favour of expanded bus service. In North Bay, hundreds of jobs may be lost if whoever buys the ONTC closes the rail service centre.
But the North was never going to escape the austerity provisions of a Liberal government. And this was indeed a government decision, not just a decision by Bartolucci in his capacity as minister of Northern Development and Mines. Look at who is affected the most, and look at the McGuinty government’s track record in such decisions. When the Liberals cancelled six major hospital projects in the last budget, five of them were in Progressive Conservative ridings, including one in Tory leader Tim Hudak’s home riding.

The people most affected by the ONTC decision are in North Bay — where rail service shop is located, along with about 400 jobs. That riding is held by Tory Vic Fedeli. The others most affected reside along the Highway 11 corridor through the ridings of Timiskaming–Cochrane, held by New Democrat John Vanthof, and Timmins-James Bay, which is held by the NDP’s Gilles Bisson.
It’s a cynical take on decision-making, but it’s hardly restricted to the Liberal party.
The Liberals argue each ride on the Northlander train is being subsidized by $400. Opponents argue that’s an exaggeration, while similar support for Metrolinx in southern Ontario is called an investment.
The Liberals’ determination to charge ahead on privatizing the ONTC without meaningful input from those most affected has generated outrage of the sort that Bartolucci used to be able to muster when he was in opposition.
He’ll weather it, but it is not what he’s good at.
Opponents of privatizing the ONTC argue that Bartolucci’s resignation or early retirement — which Fedeli called for in the legislature Monday, bolstered by ONTC unions — will force the Liberals to call a byelection, during which the Liberals would naturally promise to retain the ONTC to win votes. But the ONTC isn’t much of an issue in Sudbury, so even that hail-Mary logic fails.

For the rest of this column, please go to the Sudbury Star website: