The unions proposing a plan to transfer
ownership of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC)
to a new operating 'port authority' must submit a business plan to
participate in the province's divestment process, said a ministry
Laura Blondeau said the 'New Deal'
group must submit a qualified proposal of its capabilities to
Infrastructure Ontario, something the government has yet to see, as
of early December.
Blondeau said that was the message sent
in an Oct. 31 meeting between Northern Development and Mines Minister
Rick Bartolucci and Roy Hains, CEO of a proposed entity called the
James Bay & Lowlands Ports Trustee Corp.
The 'New Deal' group is spearheaded by
the General Chairperson's Association, representing unionized
employees at the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC).
Its ambitious plan is to transfer the ONTC's assets, including the
railroad, to a 'port authority' available under the Canada Marine
The James Bay & Lowlands Ports
Trustee Corp. proposal has been endorsed by KWG Resources, a chromite
junior miner in the Ring of Fire, and Nipissing-Timiskaming MP Jay
The 'New Deal' group wants to keep the
ONTC telecommunications, bus and rail divisions intact to maintain
jobs and support Far North mineral development.
Hains said Bartolucci is determined to
continue with the divestment process.
“I’ve asked him to cease and
desist, and he said, ‘No, it would cost the taxpayers too much, I’m
in a race to liquidate this thing because it costs the taxpayers
Blondeau said the 'New Deal' group is
invited to 'submit a proposal to Infrastructure Ontario, the same as
any other prospective purchaser.
But Hains said his group has been
unable to develop a business plan because it’s been blocked from
seeing the financials of each ONTC division.
“He (Bartolucci) keeps telling me to
bid on the phone company. I said I want to bid on it all, but there’s
no vehicle. You’ve created an unfair playing field because I’m
trying to bid on it all.”Blondeau said without a detailed plan
demonstrating the group’s technical expertise and financial
backing, Blondeau said it’s highly unlikely Infrastructure Ontario
will invite them to participate in the next stage of the divestment
In September, Ontera, the ONTC’s
telecommunications division, was the first business line put on the
block with Infrastructure Ontario inviting interested buyers to
submit their financial and technical capacities through a Request for
Qualifications (RFQ) process.
Blondeau said there was “healthy
interest” from “good prospective buyers.”
Only after signing non-disclosure
agreements will those buyers have access to the ONTC’s financials
at the Request for Proposals stage.
Blondeau said the “New Deal”
group's submission has consisted of maps, press releases,
presentation speaking notes and newspaper clippings.
“In the case of this group, they
Blondeau said with the process being
monitored by the Office of Fairness Commissioner, “we would get in
trouble if we selected one group to treat differently in having
access to information that others don’t.
“The minister was clear he wasn’t
stopping the process, but everything is speculation (from the New
Deal group) because we have nothing.”
“At this point, the ship has sailed
with Ontera,” she said.
It’s now up to Infrastructure Ontario
to determine the next lines of business to be sold.
“The province has never undertaken a
divestment of this size, ever. There was an initial target date, but
we are not glued to that.”
Hains deflected any suggestion his
group would resort to an injunction to haltthe process.
“I don't like to negotiate outside,
but I would like him to cease and desist. His (Bartolucci's) first
line of communication is that it would slow it down and cost the
Hains, who acted as a consultant and
executive vice-president of the Ontario Northland in the early 2000s,
was in charge of a privatization process under the Harris government
until the Conservative government backed out.