Sudbury

Stop paying fees to southern Ontario's busing company, ONTC drivers' union says

The union representing Ontario Northland bus drivers says the company is spending too much money on fees in the south.

Province should let Ontario Northland use the southern Ontario terminals for free, union chair says

Ontario Northland is a provincial agency that provides transportation services to northeastern Ontario. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

The union representing Ontario Northland bus drivers says the company is spending too much money on fees it's paying to southern Ontario's public transportation system.

Northern Ontario's public bus company makes seven trips to southern Ontario a day. To drop people off, Ontario Northland pays southern Ontario terminals about $500,000 in fees a year, the union said.

About a quarter of that — $130,000 — pays for use of the publicly subsidized GoTransit terminal in Yorkdale, north of Toronto, the Ministry of Transportation said. 
Tony Wentzell, the chair of Ontario Northland's drivers union, says money for more routes is being depleted by fees that are going into the pockets of southern Ontario bus companies. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

That money could go towards adding routes in the north, says Tony Wentzell who represents Ontario Northland bus drivers for the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference union.

"We're paying money to use another government terminal and, meanwhile, we have to cut our own terminals because, in the north, we're being asked to be sustainable," he said.

Sister companies

Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli said the southern terminal fees are a clear example of why transit systems in the north and south should be combined.
Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli says the southern terminal fees are a clear example of why transit systems in the north and south should be combined. (The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn)

"These are sister companies. They're both agencies of the government of Ontario. This is exactly why we called years ago that there be a strategic alliance of these two," he said.

GoTransit received more than $160 million for the 2013-2014 fiscal year from the Ministry of Transportation.

However Ontario Northland — which is run by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines — has been told it has to be self-sustaining.

Wentzell said the province should let Ontario Northland use the southern Ontario terminals for free.

"We have to close down our terminals, plus pay to use these other government terminals in the south," he continued.

"All we're looking for is a bit of a break here to try and keep some service in the north which, with the recent greyhound cuts, will be pretty close to non-existent pretty soon."

Charge backs?

John Vanthof, NDP MPP for Timiskaming-Cochrane, said it's common for ministries to pay each other for services. (CBC)
But the NDP MPP for Timiskaming-Cochrane said it's common for ministries to pay each other for services.

"I don't mind that there's a charge, so that the Go system can see where it's getting its money from. But there has to be a charge back to ONTC," John Vanthof said.

"If you're running a system that no one else can provide without subsidy, to have to pay the government and not receive anything back, that doesn't make sense."

GoTransit is heavily subsidized, while Ontario Northland is not, he said.

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