A new ONTC must move forward – by John R. Hunt (North Bay Nugget – March 4, 2014)


The mountain has laboured and produced a plan. The ONTC rail unions and management have got their act together and sent their plan for a new ONTC to Toronto.

Both sides agree that change is necessary and it appears that the unions have accepted some reduction in the labour force. However, this will be achieved through attrition. The plan will be studied by Northern Development And Mines Minister Michael Gravelle and his advisory committee.

The success or failure of this plan is of vital importance to North Bay although the minister is apparently considering a number of options.

The unions are afraid that Ontera, the ONTC’s communication wing, may be sold before a decision is reached. This would be grossly unfair and if Ontera is profitable it makes little sense to sell it.

It should be remembered that the Ontario Northland Railway pioneered long distance telephone service in the Northeast.

While other railways ignored the telephone and concentrated on protecting their telegraph service, the ONR carried long distance telephone lines with it as it pushed the railway North. Many competing local telephone companies were started but to call Toronto customers had to go to the nearest ONR station. It must be hoped this new plan shows some consideration for the ONTC’s traditional role of opening up and developing the North in communications as well as rail services.

The plan may include restoration of rail passenger service but the government has indicated that it will not consider this. The loss of the rail passenger service has already hurt many handicapped and senior citizens who do not relish a lengthy bus ride to Toronto. While wrecking transit service in Northeast Ontario, the government is considering a gasoline tax to improve transit service in southern Ontario.

The good news is that the unions and management have cooperated and worked together. Perhaps if this new attitude had been prevalent a few years ago there would have been less reason or excuse for the government’s original decision to divest it self of the ONTC.

Everyone in North Bay will be anxiously waiting for some good news from Toronto. It is naïve to expect too much.

Since Rick Bartolucci made his outrageous announcement that the government would divest itself of the ONTC, the employees have endured a hellish period of uncertainty.

Political cynics might assume that the government will continue stalling until the next provincial election. If Gravelle is sincere, he will give the plan a fast study and speedy approval so that a new ONTC can move forward.

For the original version of this article, click here: http://www.nugget.ca/2014/03/04/a-new-ontc-must-move-forward