ONTC divisions to remain public; Ontera to be sold – by PJ Wilson (North Bay Nugget – April 4, 2014)


The provincial government is selling the communications arm of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, but will keep the other four divisions of the Crown agency.

In an announcement at the ONTC bus garage on Wallace Road Friday, Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle said the motor coach, Polar Bear Express, rail freight and refurbishment services will remain in public hands.

The decision, he said, will bring some needed sustainability to the ONTC after two years of uncertainty springing from the province’s decision to wind down operations of the company two years ago.

Gravelle also announced that the province will pump $6.2 million into the company over three years to purchase new motor coaches, as well as $17 million for the refurbishment of the Polar Bear Express rolling stock.

The announcement, Gravelle said, will also pave the way for serious discussions between the ONTC and Crown agency Metrolinx on a new strategic alliance for the refurbishment of GO Transit equipment.

“This will provide the certainty Metrolinx is looking for,” Gravelle said. “While there was the uncertainty (over the future of the ONTC), it made discussions on an alliance more difficult.

“By providing that certainty, more formal discussions are possible.”

Gravelle noted that a strategic alliance between the two Crown agencies was first raised three years ago, when the ONTC lost a $100-million bid to refurbish GO Transit rolling stock to a company in Montreal.

The $6.2-million investment in motor coach equipment will allow the ONTC to purchase 11 new, accessible buses over three years.

The sale of Ontera to Bell Aliant for $6 million in cash also includes an estimated $10 million in long-term revenue to the ONTC based on fibre-optic licencing agreements.

The province and Bell Aliant will also each put $15.1 million into a public-private investment in telecommunications infrastructure in Northeastern Ontario.

Ontera now employs just over 125 people. Bell Aliant, Gravelle said, promises a “seamless transition,” with no changes of employment at this time.

The provincial government announced just over two years ago it was divesting the Crown agency, with the intention to sell whatever it could sell and wind down whatever operations it could not sell.

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