Gravelle wants dialogue – by Gord Young (North Bay Nugget – February 13, 2013)

NORTH BAY – Northern Development Minister Michael Gravelle ruled out any dramatic change of course Wednesday in the divestment of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.

“I think it’s fair to say that the ONTC divestment process will be continuing . . . in a way that makes sense. And I think we feel there needs to be significant community input into that process,” said Gravelle, the longtime MPP for Thunder Bay-Superior North, who was given a cabinet seat earlier this week in Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government.

Gravelle, formally Minister of Natural Resources was re-appointed by Wynne Monday to the Northern Development and Mines portfolio – a position he held for four years after he was appointed to cabinet for the first time in 2007.

Only about 48 hours into the job, Gravelle said in a telephone interview Wednesday he wants dialogue and is trying not to draw any lines in the sand when it comes to the issue of divestment. But Gravelle also indicated he doesn’t want to pretend there’s going to be a dramatic shift in direction.

“I think there is a real legitimacy to the decision for the divestment process to take place. It’s a question of how it’s done, in a fashion that still takes advantage of the economic opportunities of the ONTC,” he said, noting the ONTC is among a number of issues he plans on discussing with municipalities. “I’m not so sure that the conversation that needs to take place has taken place with some of our municipal partners in particular.”

Gravelle said the ONTC is part of a larger conversation he wants to hold with community leaders regarding Northern Ontario and its relationship with the government.

“Premier Wynne has made it incredibly clear that Northern Ontario is a real priority for her and for our government,” said Gravelle.

He pointed to Wynne’s commitment to create a Northern cabinet committee that will provide input on decisions affecting this part of the province.

“The general premise is that we want to make sure everyone is sensitized to the fact that the North is different than the south,” he said, noting a cabinet meeting is expected to be held in North in the coming weeks.

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