Ontera sale 'makes no sense'

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Captain Steubings
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Ontera sale 'makes no sense'

Post by Captain Steubings » Fri Apr 04, 2014 4:07 pm

The sale of Ontera – the communications arm of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission – is a blow to the community, according to the president of CAW Local 103 Brian Kelly.

“This doesn’t change anything,” Kelly said after Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle announced Friday morning that the remaining four divisions of the ONTC will remain in public hands.

“They’re getting rid of Ontera,” Kelly said. “That makes no sense to us. It’s going to carry a heavy pricetag.”

Ontera is being sold to Bell Aliant for $6 million in cash and will result in long-term revenue to the ONTC estimated at $10 million for a fibre cable licencing agreement.

Bell Aliant will also pick up all future operational costs and capital needs of the company.

Ontera employs about 125 people.

And while Kelly said he appreciated Gravelle’s comments that the motor coach, rail freight, refurbishment and Polar Bear Express will remain in public hands, this is only “a stay of execution” without an alliance between the ONTC and Metrolinx – the government agency that operates GO Transit – to refurbish Metrolinx rolling stock in North Bay.

“If (the goverment) truly wanted an alliance, it would have happened by now,” Kelly said.

“I don’t believe these guys want it to happen. I don’t know how much more studying they need to do to make it come about.”

And while a $17-million refurbishment of Polar Bear Express rolling stock was welcome, Kelly said it is virtually the same contract that was announced by former Nipissing MPP Monique Smith in 2011.

“The only difference is it’s worth more money,” Kelly said.

Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli also expressed concern about the sale of Ontera, noting the province invested more than $20 million in fibre optic infrastructure in Northeastern Ontario.

“Did this sale in fact cost taxpayers money as we’ve been warning since the fire sale was announced?” Fedeli asked.

The province announced the planned divestment of the ONTC in March 2012. Passenger rail service was closed down in September that year.

The provincial auditor general, in a report on the proposed sale of the Crown agency, said the sale would cost the province about $820 million instead of a $200-million saving the provincial government had claimed.

Fedeli said Friday’s announcement “looks like another Liberal pre-election ploy to try to buy votes.”

Ontera sale 'makes no sense' | North Bay Nugget

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