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Gilles Bisson, Timmins James Bay MPP (CBC)

The New Democrats say it's unfair for the Liberal government to subsidize public transit in southern Ontario while privatizing train service in the north.

NDP house leader and MPP for Timmins-James Bay Gilles Bisson said the government subsidizes GO Trains, but insists it can no longer afford to subsidize the Ontario Northland Railway.

Bisson said people in the north are scratching their heads at the government's announcement of the train sale in last month's budget.

Northern Development Minister Rick Bartolucci said the provincial subsidy for GO Trains is about $2 per ride versus a $400-per-ride subsidy on the Ontario Northland railway.

He said that's unsustainable, so private companies are being asked to bid on some or all of its rail lines to see if they can provide a more efficient and cost-effective service.

Bartolucci said the government won't know if the privatization will be a good thing or a bad thing for individual communities until the proposals come in from the private sector.

Meanwhile, unions representing Ontario Northland workers will meet on Friday with the NDP in North Bay to talk about the future of the company.

Bisson said the NDP is looking at putting an amendment into the provincial budget that would block the sale of the ONTC.

If that's not possible, Bisson said the party plans to delay other bills to force the Liberal government to negotiate.

With files from Canadian Press