New Deal for Northern Ontario

Freqently Asked Questions

1. How did the New Deal come about? How long has it been in the works?
2. Some people have described the business structure envisioned by the New Deal as a cooperative. Is that the case?
3. Does the New Deal envision continued government subsidies for ONTC?
4. What are the potential costs to the provincial government in severance and benefits if it proceeds with the divestment of ONTC?
5. Why are you looking at creating a ports authority under the Canada Marine Act for a service that is mainly about rail?
6. The provincial government has proposed a road link to the Ring of Fire. Why are you advocating rail?
7. Would the New Deal restore the Northlander and all passenger services?

 

1. How did the New Deal come about? How long has it been in the works?

The need for a new and revitalized ONTC came to the forefront when the provincial government announced its decision to divest ONTC in March 2012. The General Chairperson's Association, representing ONTC's unionized employees, decided that it needed to take action to maintain transportation services and hundreds of existing jobs in Ontario's North.

Many people, representing different key stakeholders, got involved. Discussions with First Nations communities in the James Bay Lowlands have been ongoing since mid April. In August, Roy Hains was approached by a former government official to meet with Canada Chrome Corporation (CCC), a claim holder in the mineral-rich Ring of Fire. CCC had already secured a right of way for a rail line to the Ring of Fire, and was pursuing ways to advance the project. Meetings have also been held with federal government representatives and the mayors of communities throughout Northeastern Ontario, among others.

 

2. Some people have described the business structure envisioned by the New Deal as a cooperative. Is that the case?

Strictly speaking, this is not a "cooperative", though that word certainly captures the spirit in which the New Deal has been developed. We have created a Ports Authority trustee corporation as a first step to establishing the James Bay & Lowlands Ports Authority under the Canada Marine Act. ONTC's operations and the new Ring of Fire line would be operated by the Ports Authority. As for cooperation, the New Deal reflects the input, support and involvement of numerous stakeholders including First Nations communities, the unions representing ONTC employees, Northern Ontario communities, Nipissing-Timiskaming MP Jay Aspin, and mining and other business interests. The provincial government has been invited to participate in this exciting initiative.
 

3. Does the New Deal envision continued government subsidies for ONTC?

The New Deal will revitalize ONTC’s operations and ensure that they are sustainable on a stand-alone basis long into the future. The plan is to move ONTC’s operations and assets off the provincial government’s books and, by developing the Ring of Fire link, establish a solid and sustainable model that best serves Ontario’s North.

The provincial government has made policy commitments that would ensure rail and other services to First Nations and northern communities will continue following divestiture. We will work with the government to ensure those policy commitments are fulfilled.

 

4. What are the potential costs to the provincial government in severance and benefits if it proceeds with the divestment of ONTC?

As with any divestiture, the wind-up costs of ONTC from severance, benefits and pensions would be significant. These are obligations under federal labour law and existing collective agreements. Added to this are other costs related to the government’s policy commitments to maintain transportation services for First Nations and the travelling public in Northern Ontario.

Ontario’s Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Rick Bartolucci, has said he would honour ONTC’s collective agreements with its 950 employees. Those workers have been with ONTC for an average of about 25 years.

The severance and related costs of divestiture have not been shared with us by the government to date. This will be part of an overall discussion with the government as we seek to strengthen ONTC’s operations, preserve existing jobs and create thousands of new jobs under the New Deal plan to build a rail link to the Ring of Fire.

The New Deal is not about severance payments. Like workers everywhere, ONTC employees want to wake up in the morning and go to work. That’s exactly why the New Deal focuses on the best way to maintain and enhance transportation services in Northern Ontario, create new jobs that lead to careers and strengthen the region’s economy. The benefits to all key stakeholders are significant, and that is why the New Deal enjoys such widespread support.

We are convinced that our plan will also deliver significant benefits to the provincial government. This is an exciting opportunity for the government to retain and expand transportation services and preserve hundreds of existing jobs in Ontario’s North while also creating thousands more jobs.

 

5. Why are you looking at creating a ports authority under the Canada Marine Act for a service that is mainly about rail?

Infrastructure assets of this nature are best suited to some form of public ownership. Throughout Canada’s history, the public sector has always played a key role in delivering significant, long term economic development in large, sparsely populated regions of the country. This axiom applies directly to the region now served by ONTC and to the Ring of Fire.

Proponents of the New Deal therefore sought to identify the optimal public ownership structure for ONTC going forward. This led to the Canada Marine Act. The Canada Marine Act model ensures that the social, economic and environmental benefits of the Ring of Fire are shared with the people in this territory as they are realized over time.

A ports authority is also the best structure to ensure that the rights, needs and aspirations of the First Nations communities in the areas now served by ONTC and in the Ring of Fire will be fully respected.

The objectives of the Canada Marine Act match closely with the goals of the New Deal for Northern Ontario.

 

6. The provincial government has proposed a road link to the Ring of Fire. Why are you advocating rail?

Rail is by far the most economic and environmentally friendly solution to ship thousands of tons per day of chromite, nickel and other minerals and finished products to markets around the world. Given the huge volumes of material that will be shipped over many decades, plus the region’s challenging terrain and climate, only a rail solution makes sense.

Moreover, key elements needed to build a new rail line are already in place. This includes a viable right of way that has already secured by Canada Chrome Corporation.

 

7. Would the New Deal restore the Northlander and all passenger services?

We are looking to reinstate and revitalize passenger rail services along the Highway 11 corridor. We will work with the provincial government and Metrolinx to find the best way to do this. This will take time, and is part of our plan.
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