“Transformation” is the Ontario government's new watchword when discussing the future of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC).
In a Dec. 13 statement, Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle said “transformation” of the Crown-owned agency will save Ontario money while keeping transportation and communications to Northerners.
His remarks come on the heels of a special report this week by Ontario's auditor general who spelled that if the divestment of the ONTC had proceeded, it would have cost taxpayers $820 million instead of saving $265.9 million over three years as the government insisted in 2012.
“I must stress that the $820 million in liabilities that the auditor noted in her report is not an accurate representation of our government’s approach to transformation,” said Gravelle. “I have stated for quite some time now that I do not believe divestment is the only option before us. Different lines may require different solutions. That still remains the case today.”
Under Premier Kathleen Wynne, the province has distanced from previous McGuinty government's hardline divestment stance to quickly sell off the business lines and the assets of rail, bus and telecommunication arms of the Crown agency.
Gravelle said the government is exploring various options including keeping the status quo of public ownership, restructuring, alternative service delivery, new partnerships and landing new owners.
“That is the work underway now, certainly to inform decision making, a full look at all costs and liabilities under each scenario will be included.”
And seeking consultation with community and industry stakeholders is now fashionable with a special advisory committee struck earlier this year and headed by Gravelle. The unions of the ONTC have even been welcomed into the process.
Gravelle said the auditor general's report showed that government subsidies to sustain operations will only continue to grow.
“Our discussions with Northern leaders show a clear consensus that the current state of the organization is not sustainable and change is needed.”