Plea for ONTC likely to fall on deaf ears – by Wayne Snider (Timmins Daily Press – November 27, 2012)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – It is one thing for the provincial government to ignore the constant pleas from municipal leaders and opposition MPPs on an issue, but it is a whole new ball game when it disregards the needs of industry.

At Timmins council Monday night, Tom Semadeni asked the city to “help us in terms of lobby efforts” to make sure freight rail service is continued in Northeastern Ontario in the wake of Queen’s Park’s ongoing sell-off of the Ontario Northland Transportation Corporation. Semadeni is the general manager of Kidd Operations in Timmins for Xstrata Copper.

Semadeni told council the divestiture of the ONTC could create possible challenges for the mining company in the future. He said trucking material would be more costly than freight rail and cause more damage to the roads.

The concerns raised by Xstrata echo comments raised by Northern leaders – from mayors and councils across the region to MPPs like Gilles Bisson (NDP – Timmins-James Bay) – since the sell-off was announced in the spring.

Clearly, the mining industry is waving a red flag to warn the provincial government about the effect the sell-off will have on industry in the region.

The ongoing divestiture of the ONTC is having a major socio-economic impact on Northeastern Ontario, in terms of direct jobs for the railway and a necessary service for resource-based industry, which is the backbone of Northern Ontario’s economy.

Meanwhile, the province is more than happy to rake in the taxation generated by operations such as Kidd Creek.

Heck, even one southern-based Liberal MPP gets it. Glen Murray (Liberal — Toronto Centre), who is seeking to replace out-going Premier Dalton McGuinty as the Grit party leader, said they should “pause” the divestment of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission until regional priorities are set.

“I’d put the pause button on ONTC decisions,” he said during a recent campaign pitstop in North Bay. “We should not be making these one-off decisions.”

Undoubtedly, Timmins council will pass on the comments from Semadeni to the provincial government.

For the original version of this column, please go to the Timmins Daily Press website: