ONTC talks include Northern leaders – by Wayne Snider(Timmins Daily Press – March 22, 2013)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – Northern leaders will have the chance to provide input into the privatization of the ONTC.

Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle announced Thursday the formation of an advisory committee to provide the provincial government with input into the divestment process of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.

“I made a commitment to set up this Ministerial Advisory Committee to ensure the voices of Northerners and all those impacted by the divestment of ONTC were heard,” Gravelle said in a press release.

“The advisory committee has also been established to meet the standard our government has set out: To see that divestment recognizes the economic development value of the ONTC, and that the decisions made reflect the need to put in place a Northern transportation strategy that recognizes growth and prosperity.”

The divestment of the provincially owned ONTC was announced on March 23, 2012. The move sparked protests across Northeastern Ontario. The Northlander passenger rail service was shut down in September. Freight rail and Ontera, the telecommunications arm of the ONTC, are still in line for privatization.

Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren will serve on the committee. He welcomes the opportunity to provide input into the ONTC situation.

“Something we’ve asked for from Day 1 is to be part of the process,” he said. “It has taken a year to get there, but I have to credit Minister Gravelle for living up to his commitment.

“This will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to get involved, raise their concerns. and work with the government on the best path forward.”

Until the group actually meets, however, one big question remains unanswered: Is privatization still the only solution being considered?

“We don’t know at this point how much they are set in their ways,” Laughren said. “They will be bringing us up to speed.”

Laughren said discussions of establishing this committee came up during the recent Ontario Good Roads Conference. Other Northern municipal leaders were pushing for an opportunity to be involved in talks.

“What we want at the end of the day is the best service for Northern Ontario,” he said. “There is freight rail, Ontera and bus service left.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Timmins Daily Press website: http://www.timminspress.com/2013/03/21/ontc-talks-include-northern-leaders

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