The Ontario government and ONTC management have acted quickly to quash any talk that the ONR could be sold to a James Bay native council.
Mike Feenstra, Director of Communications for Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development and Mines told BayToday in an email that, “On April 4, 2014, after extensive work with the Minister’s Advisory Committee on the ONTC, Minister Gravelle announced the government would keep the ONTC in public hands and operations would be transformed. As a result, 4 of the 5 lines of business (Onterra has been sold to Bell Aliant) are being kept in public hands under the management of the ONTC. This statement from Minister Gravelle reaffirms this decision:
“Our government has been clear – ONTC’s motor coach, Polar Bear Express, rail freight, and refurbishment services will remain in public hands. We remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure sustainable employment, continued economic growth, and a strong transportation network in northeastern Ontario through transformation of the ONTC.”
And Interim CEO of Ontario Northland Corina Moore confirmed it to BayToday. “The province has been clear that Ontario Northland’s rail operations will remain in public hands. Transformation is underway at Ontario Northland. We are focused on reshaping the organization in order to be sustainable so we can continue to provide vital transportation services to northeastern Ontario.”
Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Lawrence Martin, says his council is studying the idea of partnering with a southern Ontario rail company, TGR Rail Canada, to buy the rail division of Ontario Northland.
The goal would be to expand rail service on the James Bay coast and even serve the Ring Of Fire chromite development eventually.
Mushkegowuk represents the First Nations Communities along the James Bay coast.
Meanwhile, Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli supports the idea of expanding the ONR to James Bay.
“When I first ran as MPP I felt extending the railway up into James Bay to a port was a credible concept no matter who does it. My philosophy on rail to ship has not changed.
“If you do that you can have goods that are manufactured in southern Ontario, and in the north, brought up by Ontario Northland rail, which in my opinion enhances the value of Ontario Northland.
“I’m not suggesting the deal with the Mushkegowuk is good or bad, I’m suggesting that extending the railway to James Bay is something I’ve advocated for four years.
Fedeli says extending Ontario Northland all the way up to the coast makes sense, bringing products through the Polar Route.
“It (the port) is either going to end up in Churchill Manitoba, and they’ll get the business, or we can build a deep water port in James Bay that could accept goods from Ontario Northland,” Fedeli added.
“Shipping goods by rail that are manufactured in Canada up by Ontario Northland to the coast would be a real boost to Ontario Northland and I’ve been fighting for that since 2011. No matter what happens we’ve got to insist that Ontario Northland be invited to the Ring of fire table.”
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