Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli wants a formal audit of the Ontario government’s “fire sale” of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC).
The Progressive Conservative MPP delivered a members’ statement in the Ontario Legislature this week with the restructured Liberal government continuing the divestment process of the Crown agency.
The ONTC is headquartered in Fedeli's home riding of North Bay.
“Last fall, I wrote to the Auditor General detailing how this fire sale will achieve no savings. Sadly, the legislature was prorogued and my request could not be advanced. I plan to move a motion at committee this week to once again ask the auditor to formally investigate the government’s sale plans to examine the true financial picture.”
Fedeli said the rail freight division is “strategically-critical infrastructure to economic development and private sector job creation” in Northern Ontario, and must remain in public hands.
“One approach is the New Deal for Ontario Northland which proposes a publicly-owned rail transportation solution for the vital Ring of Fire mining development."
Timiskaming-Cochrane MPP John Vanthof urged Premier Kathleen Wynne to halt the divestment and work with Northerners to develop a regional transportation system.
“Northerners are still reeling from the government’s decision to divest the Ontario Northland and cancel our passenger rail service. As we speak, the communications division (Ontera) is on the block, and the refurbishment shops, the bus lines and the freight will follow.
“Selling off and closing vital ONTC infrastructure, while talking to Northerners about creating a transportation plan, is like closing the barn door after the horse is gone,” said Vanthof.
Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle gave no indication the divestment process will be called off, but said a new Northern cabinet committee, which meets March 1 in Sault Ste. Marie, will be discussing economic development priorities for the North.
“The premier has made it very clear how important it is that we get the transportation strategy in Northern Ontario right. We recognize how important that is for the economic development needs that are going to be happening, particularly the Ring of Fire and those opportunities. So our commitment is to take that seriously, to work closely with our municipal stakeholders, to work closely with the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities, and we’ll be doing that on a daily basis.”