New Deal for Northern Ontario

ONTC: Current Operations and Divestment Plans

ONTC Structure and Operations

The Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) provides rail, bus and telecom services in Northern Ontario as well as rail car refurbishment. Established in 1902, the ONTC is a Crown agency of the provincial government.

With headquarters in North Bay, ONTC operates more than 1,100 km of railway track, principally in Northeastern Ontario. It also provides bus service to 56 communities and telecom services in 40 communities.

The ONTC has played a significant role in transportation and economic development in Ontario’s Northeast for more than a century. It employs more than 950 workers in the region and has an estimated annual economic impact of almost $210 million in Northeastern Ontario. The organization is described on the ONTC website as “a recognized leader in promoting sustainable economic growth by establishing and operating transportation and telecommunication links throughout Northern Ontario.”

ONTC operates under the Ontario Northland (rail and bus) and Ontera (telecom) names. Its services include:

Until recently, ONTC also operated the Northlander passenger rail service between Toronto and Cochrane. The Northlander was shut down by the Ontario government on September 28, 2012.

The Ontario Government’s Plan to Divest ONTC

On March 23, 2012, the Ontario Government announced its decision to divest the ONTC by tendering all assets of the corporation for sale to the private sector.

A transition board of directors was given a mandate to:

  • Divest commercially valuable assets, such as rail freight, rail refurbishment and Ontera telecommunications, on a business unit-by-business unit basis.
  • Cancel the Northlander train service between Toronto and Cochrane.
  • Tender bus services for other operators to service existing bus routes.
  • Consolidate the ferry service between Moosonee and Moose Factory with other provincial ferry services.
  • Ensure the ongoing operation of the Polar Bear Express service.

Ontera is the first ONTC business line to be put up for sale. Infrastructure Ontario has issued a request for qualifications inviting interested buyers to submit their qualifications to purchase and operate Ontera. This will lead to the development of a short-list of potential buyers who in turn will be invited to respond to a request for proposal.

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