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Ontario Northland Transportation Commission board needs power, union says

A new board for the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) met for the first time Monday in North Bay — a meeting the Crown corporation's unions hope is a sign the transformation promised by the province is underway.

Minister of Northern Development Michael Gravelle talks about upcoming investments

A new board for the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) met for the first time Monday in North Bay. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

A new board for the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) met for the first time Monday in North Bay — a meeting the Crown corporation's unions hope is a sign the transformation promised by the province is underway.

In 2012, the province said it intended to wind down the ONTC, with plans to break up and sell its divisions. In 2014, the province announced it would keep most of the agency in public hands, though it would sell off its telecommunications arm Ontera.

Since then a promised transformation plan to make the agency's rail, bus and refurbishment operations more sustainable has been slow to materialize.

Andy Mitchell, Unifor Local 103's vice-president, said Premier Kathleen Wynne's government has been "lacking.

"She comes out and says she wants to have sustainable employment — continued economic growth and strong transportation network," he said. "So far all we have seen is layoffs, service cuts, and station closures."

'Cannot make a timely decision'

Mitchell said the board needs more decision-making power.

"It's not a standalone agency," he said. "It goes through [Nortern Development], and then it goes through Queen's Park and then up and up and up, and the problem is Ontario Northland cannot make a decision in a timely manner."

Minister of Northern Development Michael Gravelle travelled to North Bay for the board meeting and talked about upcoming investments in the ONTC.

North Bay Mayor Al McDonald says Gravelle didn't elaborate, but he hopes it's a good sign.

"We have our fingers crossed but the track record of this minister is that he tries to move things forward and works with his boards extremely well," McDonald said.
    
McDonald says final decisions about the future of the ONTC rest with the minister.

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