Stakeholders in Northern Ontario were not consulted, nor an environmental assessment study undertaken, as the Environmental Assessment Act states must be done
OTTAWA, April 26, 2012 /CNW/ - Queen's Park is flouting its own laws by rushing to sell the 106-year-old Ontario Northland Railway that will kill jobs and adversely impact thousands of lives in Northern Ontario, says the head of Teamsters Canada Rail Conference Maintenance of Way Employees, which represents 200 ONR workers.
"Premier Dalton McGuinty, in his rush to divest from the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, which owns the ONR, is not only forgetting about families in Northern Ontario but he also seems to be forgetting about his own laws," says William Brehl, president of the union representing maintenance workers on the railway. "We owe a debt of gratitude to Cochrane resident Mike Palangio for raising this issue in his letter of April 10 to Rick Bartolucci, the Liberals Minister of Northern Development and Mines."
In his letter, Palangio, a 60-year-old prospector, writes that the Environmental Assessment Act clearly binds the government to performing a public environmental assessment study whenever an undertaking affects "the social, economic and cultural conditions that influence the life of humans or a community." The letter has spread around the Internet, but Bartolucci has not yet responded to Palangio.
"We certainly agree," Brehl says, "that this proposed sale obviously impacts thousands of people in Northern Ontario and there has been no environmental assessment. If this sale goes forward it will profoundly affect numerous communities in the North, and even communities further south such as Muskoka cottage country as more and more tractor-trailers hit the highways. One train can haul as many goods as more than 50 trucks and people should be aware of this all across Ontario."
Brehl says the government has not given ONR President Paul Goulet enough time or enough support to make the railway more efficient. He adds that we all know how much a McGuinty promise is worth, but it is incumbent upon the Premier to honor the laws of the province and call for an environmental assessment before selling the ONTC.
"This is not only about our members and their families or the 1,000 jobs at ONTC, it is about a vital piece of the economy in Northern Ontario that impacts thousands of lives. In fact, it was Dalton McGuinty himself who called ONTC vital to the North and once promised that 'we will not allow it to be privatized.' So much for his promises," Brehl adds.
Teamsters Canada Rail Conference Maintenance of Way Employees Division (TCRC-MWED), a division of Teamsters Canada, represents more than 4,000 maintenance of way workers at more than 20 short line railroads across Canada, including the ONR, and at CP Rail, one of Canada's two main railways. Its members are involved in inspecting, monitoring and repairing the tracks, bridges and structures on the network. TCRC-MWED's mission is to make sure that the railway is safe, in spite of any economic, managerial or other obstacles.
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