Gravelle: divestment not the only option – by Gord Young (North Bay Nugget- May 11, 2013)

Divestment should not be the only option for the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, says Northern Development Minister Michael Gravelle.

Reflecting a major change in the province’s approach to the ONTC, Gravelle told municipal politicians Friday during a Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) conference in Parry Sound that he’s come to the conclusion other avenues need to be explored when it comes to the future of the Crown agency.

“We need to be open to options other than divestment,” said Gravelle, noting the shift is a result of feedback he’s received since taking on the Northern Development and Mines portfolio earlier this year.

Gravelle said that includes feedback from an ONTC advisory committee he established consisting of Northern stakeholders, including North Bay Mayor Al McDonald. He said the committee is slated to meet in Toronto on Thursday and will discuss what some of those other possible options for the ONTC may include.

“It will be an important meeting,” said Gravelle. While in North Bay in March for the advisory committee’s inaugural meeting, Gravelle told the media that clearly the decision has been made and that province is moving forward with divestment.

McDonald said Gravelle’s new position regarding the ONTC marks the first time there has been any significant movement on the divestment issue since the province announced in March of last year it planned to sell off the Crown agency.

“I’m very pleased,” he said, suggesting the progress is the result of a willingness from all sides to work together.

McDonald said he was also encouraged to hear Premier Kathleen Wynne say during her remarks to the FONOM conference that the ONTC and Metrolinx need to work together.

Prior to the announcement that the ONTC would be divested, there was talk of a strategic alliance between the ONTC and Metrolinx, which would provide steady refurbishment work for the North Bay-based Crown agency.

Although it may no longer be the only option, Gravelle cautioned that divestment is not off the table. He also noted that “everyone” agrees that the ONTC business model needs to change, whether or not that’s a result of restructuring or divestment.

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