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ONTC plan ready for review

Gord Young

Friday, October 17, 2003 - 10:00

Local News - A newly developed three-year business plan for the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission is to be submitted by the end of the month for approval to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.

But Brian Stevens, president of Local 103 of the Canadian Auto Workers Union, representing nearly 400 rail and bus mechanical operations workers, clerical staff and stores and yard office employees, says the plan makes no sense with a new provincial government about to take power.

“The government elect has denied the Harris/Eves agenda,” said Stevens, noting the Liberals pledged prior to election to retain public ownership of the Crown corporation and to replace the commission with a renewed mandate.

The current commission, he said, should not be doing anything but dealing with day-to-day business items.

“This is the very same Harris/Eves-installed commission that recommended in December 2000 to sell off public assets, to shut down valued transportation and communication services and spent three years and millions of taxpayer dollars trying to do so,” Stevens said.

But Roy Hains, the ONTC’s executive vice-president of operations and service improvement, said there’s no consideration of public or private ownership in the plan.

“It would seem to me that we are in public hands,” he said, noting the commission does not have the authority without provincial approval to execute the plan.

Hains said development of the plan is part of the Crown corporation’s normal business planning process.

It was presented to the commission Wednesday and Thursday and will be shared with the General Chairpersons’ Association — an umbrella group representing various unions at the Crown corporation — before it is submitted to the province. It will be up to the ministry to release details of the plan, he said.

“It reflects the ideas and advice received during the past 2 1/2 years of the service-improvement process,” Hains said, noting input from customers and the Internal Solution Group contributed to the plan.

But Stevens’ suggested the plan must have been hastily thrown together in a matter of months because negotiations to sell the Ontario Northland Railway to Canadian National Railway were ongoing until June.

“Up until June they had every intention to sell . . . it doesn’t make any sense. It’s a travesty of democracy,” Stevens said, calling the plan a wasted effort.

The business of government doesn’t stop because there’s an election, Hains said, adding he believes the plan will make the ONTC a more effective and efficient operation.

“Different governments have different priorities,” he said, acknowledging the plan was developed under a Tory mandate for service improvement.

ID- 46277

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