Efforts to stall Northlander decision continue
Signs like this one posted at the Huntsville train station are popping up across Northern Ontario in an effort to get the province to stop trying to sell Ontario Northland Transportation Commission assets.
April 18, 2012
MUSKOKA – A request by a Muskokan passenger rail advocacy group seems to have been answered by provincial New Democrats.
The Committee Promoting Muskoka Rail Travel submitted a letter to NDP Leader Andrea Horwath asking her to make the cessation of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission’s passenger rail asset divestment a condition of her support for the provincial budget.
Since the provincial Progressive Conservatives have said they will vote against the budget, the McGuinty minority government needs the New Democrats’ support to prevent the defeat of the budget and the subsequent toppling of the government.
The committee stated in its letter that it is in the interest of both the federal and provincial governments, as well as dozens of northern communities, to work together to keep the trains running until a more complete and transparent analysis is conducted, and a proper search for alternatives is completed.
Horwath has since made the committee’s request a part of her party’s conditions required for support of the budget.
Lucille Frith, co-chair of the committee, said her group was delighted with Horwath’s decision.
“Although, I’m not sure we can take the credit for making that happen,” said Frith. “I would like to think there were others in Ontario who felt just as strongly as (our committee).”
Municipalities across Northern Ontario have spoke out against the government’s announcement in March that it would divest itself of Ontario Northland’s transportation and communication assets.
Many communities argue the rail line is a vital link to service and industry centres, with some having no other means of transportation.
The City of North Bay’s council unanimously passed a resolution calling for the cessation of the divestment process until permit-affected stakeholders could devise a more thoughtful business case for Ontario Northland. Other municipalities, including Muskoka, have endorsed the North Bay resolution.
Most were angered there was no public consultation before the government made its decision.
Ontario Northland employs nearly 1,000 people.
The Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities discussed the divestment during a meeting on April 13. The federation represents 110 municipalities.
President Alan Spacek, mayor of Kapuskasing, said federation members spoke against the divestment.
“We talked about our extreme disappointment not only in the government’s decision but the method in which is was taken and delivered,” said Spacek.
He said the federation and several other stakeholders had been stating the status quo for Ontario Northland’s finances was not acceptable for years. The federation had presented possible solutions to the government, but got no response.
“This organization has been on cruise control for the last eight years under this government and (the government’s) only action in dealing with it has been the one announcement to shut it down,” said Spacek.
With the province planning to spend millions on public transit, he questioned why Northern Ontario’s public transit system was being targeted in such a way.
The federation will meet with the province on April 19 and tell it the divestment should be stopped or delayed substantially until it can be determined what can be done to maximize the efficiency of Ontario Northland.
The vote on the provincial budget must take place by April 24.
This article is for personal use only courtesy of cottagecountrynow.ca - a division of Metroland Media Group Ltd.