Premier open to options with ONTC – by Wayne Snider (Timmins Daily Press – June 20, 2013)

TIMMINS – Premier Kathleen Wynne says her government is open to other options surrounding the sell-off of the ONTC. She said it is important to listen to industry, municipalities and other stakeholders before a final decision is made.

During a phone interview Thursday with The Daily Press, Wynne said her government is listening to all stakeholders regarding the privatization of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission. She said this is one of the reasons a special stakeholders committee was struck with Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle at the table.

“The minister is in conversation with all of that right now. He has said quite distinctly that complete divestiture is not the only option,” Wynne said. “We need to take a step back and work with those community voices.

“One of my concerns when I was Minister of Community Affairs and Housing, when I attended the FONOM (Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities) conference a couple of years ago, I was very concerned there was not local voices in the whole discussions around the ONTC and so we’ve changed that. So that’s the work the minister is doing right now with his advisory group.”

The Premier explained the government must look at the big picture before any more parts of the ONTC are let go.

“For me, this goes back to understanding the different parts of the North,” she said. “I want to see an integrated transportation strategy for the whole North, not just the Northeast, not just the Northwest, but understanding how all that works and how the North and Central and Southern Ontario are connected. I think we need a much better context for this discussion and that is what Minister Gravelle is doing.”

She realizes that freight rail is tied to future economic growth in the region.

“Freight rail is one of the things I’m really concerned about,” Wynne explained. “Tom Laughren, your mayor, raised this with me when I met with him during the (Liberal) leadership.

“If we are truly interested in economic growth in the North, and we are, we have to understand that freight rail is an integral part of that. That’s one of the pieces that I know Minister Gravelle is very actively engaged in.”

Wynne also discussed other issues specific to Northern Ontario.

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