ONTC talks on track – by Benjamin Aubé (Timmins Daily Press – March 26, 2013)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – Just a few minutes out a first meeting regarding the future and privatization of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC), Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren was being optimistic about the talks.

Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Michael Gravelle, met with various industry players and municipal leaders in North Bay on Monday. Talks surrounded on involving the North in the process that has seen the ONTC become available for sale to private investors.

“We had a very open dialogue, he took a lot of questions,” said Laughren about Monday’s discussions with Gravelle. “A lot of people there wanted to know why they’re there and what the fit is.

“We don’t want to meet today, and four months from now find out that something else is happening here. If we’re going to be part of this committee, then this committee has to be one that listens, and there’s got to be some reaction to some of the ideas and suggestions that are being brought up by this advisory group, and he was all good with all of that.”

Since the Liberal government announced plans to privatize the various factions of ONTV service in March 2012, passenger rail service to the North has been discontinued. With the loss of the Northland passenger train service still fresh on their minds, the potential economic implications of losing control over freight rail have many Northerners still up in arms about the decision.

“When it comes to the ONTC, FONOM (the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities) has been asking for meeting and changes for a long period of time,” explained Laughren. “Even though a lot of that is ancient history, you still have to get the history out there to see how we can work with government as we move forward, get to know the different players at the table.

“For some of the industry players, it might be really their first time meeting in that kind of format. They may have met with the minister separately. With all those things taken into account, my overview of it is it was a good start, it was a good first meeting, I think we have a process now to move forward and I think we’re going to try to meet on a monthly basis.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Timmins Daily Press website: http://www.timminspress.com/2013/03/25/ontc-talks-on-track

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