McGuinty Government Plan to Kill ONTC Betrays North
TORONTO, March 28, 2012 /CNW/ - Political, business and labour leaders are joining thousands of Northern Ontario residents in demanding the Liberal government immediately suspend its plan to kill the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) and the economic benefits provided to the region.
"It is unconscionable that the McGuinty Liberals want to impose this disastrous plan on northeastern Ontario without even the decency of consulting any of the communities that will suffer as a result," said Wayne Fraser, Ontario director of the United Steelworkers.
"It is unbelievable that a government would deliberately and completely shut out an entire region from the decision-making process, then deliver such a devastating economic blow to these communities," Fraser said.
The McGuinty Liberals want to kill the ONTC, a provincial Crown agency that provides vital transportation and communications services to the North, as part of their damaging austerity plans.
The ONTC employs 1,000 workers in northeastern Ontario and plays an even larger economic and social development role in the region. The USW represents about 200 ONTC workers, including ticket agents, rail traffic controllers, engineers, conductors, brakemen and telecommunications staff.
Thousands of Northern Ontario residents have signed a petition demanding the Liberal government suspend its plan to kill the ONTC and sell off its assets. They want a community task force created to devise a better plan for the ONTC and its economic development role in the North.
On Monday, North Bay city council unanimously adopted a motion calling for Premier Dalton McGuinty to honour his 2002 pledge not to allow privatization of the ONTC.
"Not only is the Liberals' decision a betrayal and an insult to all of northeastern Ontario, it's bad economic policy," Fraser said. "That's why everyone, from working families to municipal politicians to business and labour leaders, are opposed."
"Northerners are shocked that we are being unfairly targeted by this government," said Michael Rennie, a USW representative for ONTC workers in Cochrane.
"The Liberals subsidize transportation services and infrastructure elsewhere in Ontario, but they want to destroy the ONTC instead of supporting services in the North," Rennie noted.
"The ONTC is not supposed to be strictly a profit-driven business. Its mandate is to promote economic and social development in the North. We provide vital services that in many cases nobody else will."
The Liberals announced their plan to shut down the ONTC last Friday. Services are being maintained while the government figures out how to implement the plan.
The growing coalition opposing the plan to dismantle the ONTC accuses the McGuinty Liberals of failing to support and strengthen the agency over the years. This includes the government's award of a lucrative GO Train refurbishment contract to a Quebec firm last year, rather than to the ONTC.
Wayne Fraser, USW District 6 Director, 416-243-8792, [email protected]