The province of Ontario might be backing off plans to divest from the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.

In the updated mandate for the public transportation and telecommunications network released on Monday, the word divestment has been replaced by "transformation."

Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle said the new mandate allows the ONTC to formally explore other options without ruling out divestment.

“That sends a very formal signal that indeed we are going to be moving in the direction that makes the most sense,” Gravelle said.

“We are looking at all the options. That certainly includes restructuring. It includes alternate service delivery. It includes support from the government. It includes divestment — if that is the best decision to make in terms of long-term sustainability.”

North Bay Mayor Al McDonald said the updated mandate provides some relief.

“Although divestment isn't off the table, the focus is really on how can the ONTC be restructured and sustainable into the future,” McDonald said.

No timeline has been set for final decisions on the organization’s future, but McDonald warned those decisions need to be made soon to keep business flowing for the freight rail and refurbishment divisions.

The ONTC employs about 900 people in northeastern Ontario.