News Release: Transforming the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission

Ontario Investing in Northeastern Transportation Services and Infrastructure

April 4, 2014 11:07 a.m.Ministry of Northern Development and Mines

Ontario will continue to operate the motor coach, Polar Bear Express, rail freight, and refurbishment services of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) as a government-owned transportation company.

The province will make new strategic investments to ensure ONTC’s transportation services and infrastructure continue to support economic growth in northeastern Ontario.

The investments include more than $23 million over three years, subject to annual budget approvals, to purchase new motor coaches for its bus line and to refurbish rail coaches for the Polar Bear Express. This will maintain and improve vital transportation services, and provide new work for the ONTC refurbishment division.

Ontario has also reached an agreement with Bell Aliant to purchase Ontera. Proceeds from the sale include $6 million in cash and will result in long-term revenue to ONTC estimated at $10 million. The province and Bell Aliant will each commit $15.1 million as part of a $30.2 million public-private investment in telecommunications infrastructure in northeastern Ontario.

This announcement is the result of extensive consultations with Aboriginal, municipal, industry and labour leaders and provides much-needed certainty to the communities of northeastern Ontario.

Transforming the ONTC is part of Ontario’s plan to ensure a prosperous regional economy that attracts people and investment to northern Ontario.

Quick Facts

ONTC provides freight transportation to industries in northeastern Ontario and northwestern Quebec along its 1,100-kilometre rail system, which spans from Moosonee to North Bay and from Calstock to Rouyn-Noranda, Que.
In 2012-13, 240,000 passengers used ONTC motor coach services. Ridership has been increasing over the past three years.

The Polar Bear Express carries approximately 64,000 passengers per year.

The sale of Ontera was open and competitive, and included oversight by a third-party fairness monitor.

Through the competitive process, Bell Aliant demonstrated they can meet provincial priorities to sustain jobs, deliver telecommunications services, invest in the business in northern Ontario and provide value for taxpayers.

Since 2003, the province has invested $2.8 billion in roads, bridges and highways in northeastern Ontario.

“I am very pleased to announce that motor coach, PBX, rail freight, and refurbishment will all remain in public hands. Our government is prepared to support these lines with new strategic investments of over $23 million and I look forward to our continued work as we transform the ONTC. I am also very encouraged by what Bell Aliant will bring to support strong telecommunications services in the northeast, including a $30.2 million public-private investment in infrastructure.”

Michael Gravelle
Minister of Northern Development and Mines

“The ONTC management team continues to work in partnership with northern leaders and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines to find a viable, long-term solution for the ONTC. All organizations need to adapt and change in order to be sustainable. I think this is our time to change. I am happy to see that the province will invest in new, accessible motor coaches for the ONTC bus line and refurbish passenger rail coaches for the Polar Bear Express. This focus on investing in transportation will mean that real transformation of the ONTC can continue.”

Ted Hargreaves
chair of Ontario Northland Transportation Commission

“The province’s plan to invest more than $23 million to purchase new, accessible motor coaches for its bus line and refurbish passenger rail coaches for the Polar Bear Express means that real transformation and restructuring of the ONTC will continue. As Ontera joins Bell Aliant, we are hopeful that combined with new investments, Ontera’s legacy of achievement and excellence will continue to thrive under new ownership in the years ahead.”

Paul Goulet
president and CEO of Ontario Northland Transportation Commission

“After two years of great uncertainty for the men and women of the ONTC, today is a good news day for the City of North Bay. My number one priority all along was to save jobs and bring certainty to the future of the ONTC. We welcome the $23 million investment in our buses and refurbishment shops which not only retains jobs but builds enormous potential for future job creation here in our community. This announcement ensures that the ONTC, which has been headquartered here in our city for over 100 years, will remain and bring stability and confidence to our community.”

Al McDonald
Mayor of North Bay

Media Contacts:

Maya Gorham
Minister’s Office

Julia Bennett
Communications Branch