Angus disappointed with lack of plan – by Benjamin Aubé (Timmins Daily Press – April 11, 2013)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – Members of the federal opposition were taking shots at a government “pipe-dream” this week – and for once it had nothing to do with oil sands.

MP Charlie Angus (NDP–Timmins-James Bay) said he was upset to look through the federal budget and see only cuts to rail service across the country.

He was particularly upset about the lack of mention of the James Bay Port Authority. The idea of a central, federally owned rail and infrastructure corporation — potentially located in the Moosonee region — was the source of much discussion within Northern municipalities, the federal government, and worker’s unions alike over the past year.

“I’m shocked,” Angus said. “I looked through the budget and there’s really no plan for Northern Ontario. One of the big promises being floated was to develop this James Bay Port Authority, and it was being proposed as a way of helping save Northern rail infrastructure. So what happened, where is it?”

On the heels of the provincial Liberals’ decision to sell off the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) in March 2012, followed by the cancellation of the Northland passenger train service in September 2012, there was uproar in Northern Ontario about the perceived lack of transparency and consultation.

The ONTC employs about 950 workers in Northeastern Ontario. The ongoing sale of the commission’s sole telecommunications branch, Ontera, only added more fuel to the fire.

With projects surrounding the Ring of Fire – the large portion of Northern Ontario land that sits on top of North America’s largest chromite deposit – on the horizon, debates about ways to transport the resources by rail and road will only intensify.

At North Bay city hall in October, a group including ONTC CEO Paul Goulet and CAW Local 103 president Brian Kelly presented a proposal to transfer ownership of the Crown corporation over to the government under the federal Canada Marine Act of 1998.

The process seemed to be moving forward with the formation of the James Bay and Lowlands Ports Trustee Corporation in 2012. If approved by the government, the corporation was to become an official federal port authority and hopefully bring new life to Northern industry in the process.

The provincial opposition got involved as well, with MPP Vic Fedeli (PC–Nipissing) saying the plan was it was in its early stages back in October.

“This makes a great case for rail,” Fedeli said, explaining the government was looking at building a road approximately 300 kilometres south of the James Bay Lowlands using close to 4 million tons of gravel.

At the time, MP Jay Aspin (Conservative—Nipissing–Timiskaming) was also among those leading the charge praising the new proposal.

In December, Aspin said about the plan that, “It’s got to move ahead … everybody has got to get behind this – everybody,” adding that his role would be to work and advocate on behalf of the proposal in the House of Commons.

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