Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Three big 'whoppers' told about the Ring of Fire

So, how big a deal is the "Ring of Fire" for northern development (and, potentially, the future of the ONTC)? Perhaps not as big as we first thought. That is not to say that there is no potential (because there is) but it is worth pointing out that many of the 'whoppers' are directly the result of a sluggish government.

>>>Three big 'whoppers' told about the Ring of Fire - CBC News<<<

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

ONR president steps down

This came as a surprise to everyone. Paul Goulet has decided to call it a day at the ONTC. From what I can gather, he was well-liked by staff. However, his departure does offer the chance to change the Commission with some new leadership.

>>>ONR president steps down | North Bay Nugget<<<

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Bell Aliant acquires Ontera

Ontera has been sold, with some conditions. The Competition Bureau felt the original deal was harmful to competition in the region. As such, much of the fiber optic network is being leased to Eastlink. Opponents to the sale are now contemplating their next move.

>>>Bell Aliant acquires Ontera | North Bay Nugget<<<

Labour negotiating for ONTC's survival

Negotiations for a new collective agreement for 350 of the ONTC's workers have begun amid continued uncertainty over the Commission's future. With recent layoffs (and more expected), one wonders what the government actually meant by "transformation."

>>>Labour negotiating for ONTC's survival | Timmins Press<<<

Monday, September 29, 2014

Call of the Northland - Out Now!

After more than two years of work, Call of the Northland goes on sale today. What started as an idea for a photo essay aboard the Northlander in April 2012 became a project to chart the history of the Ontario Northland and investigate the Ontario government's failed attempt to divest the corporation.

Throughout this endeavour, I met many interesting people and corresponded with even more. I am deeply moved by how many people believed in this project and offered all sorts of support to make it a reality. People I had never met sent me their research, unpublished manuscripts, old notes and other material to help make Call of the Northland the best it could be. I have tried my best to include as much of this material as possible. Thank you to everyone who helped make this book a reality.

However, this is about more than a book. It is about a government decision which left thousands of people wondering how they would travel, how they would connect with the rest of the world. After the dust settled from the divestment mess, a passenger train was gone forever, jobs and investment had been lost, and a telecoms company was still for sale. Was divestment the answer? Perhaps, but not in the way the government planned it. No money was saved. Jobs were lost. Government: you goofed. Big time.

More information and details for ordering Call of the Northland can be found at

I hope people enjoy the book and find it a useful source on Ontario Northland and the divestment issue. As always, please send me your questions, comments and corrections. Contact details can be found at

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Call of the Northland goes on sale Monday!


Failed ONTC divestment was flawed from the start, author claims in new book

September 25, 2014

Two years after the last Northlander pulled out of the station, a new book claims that the uncertainty and frustration surrounding the cancelled divestment of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission was unnecessary and that the entire divestment was flawed from the start.

"Even if the financial case for divestment had made sense, the McGuinty government's complete lack of transparency and public engagement meant that divestment could never have succeeded," said author and historian Thomas Blampied, author of Call of the Northland: Riding the train that nearly toppled a government, which goes on sale on September 29.

"I've spent more than two years trying to understand the rationale behind the divestment plan and I’ve concluded that the numbers simply don't add up. Divestment would not have saved money. The government's claim of stagnant ridership on the Northlander was inaccurate. In fact, I believe that ridership was growing."

The book argues that the Wynne government's decision to end the divestment plan (choosing instead to ‘transform’ the ONTC) was an important development. But questions remain about why it took so long for divestment to be halted and why Ontera is still being sold.

"After the joint management/union business proposal was tabled in February 2014, the government changed its mind within a matter of weeks. Why did it take so long to reach this point? Why did Northern Ontario have to suffer through two years of uncertainty?"

Call of the Northland is an account of the Ontario Northland's history, from its earliest days in 1902 to the end of the ONTC divestment in mid-2014. The narrative is woven through the author's journey aboard the Northlander from Toronto to Cochrane in 2012.

Call of the Northland goes on sale on September 29 and will be available to purchase online through and in select retailers across Ontario.

For more information, visit the book's website:


About Thomas Blampied
Historian, author and photographer Thomas Blampied has published four books about railways in Ontario and his photography has been published on three continents. He has studied extensively in both Canada and the UK and currently lives in southern Ontario, where he is a graduate student in the History Department at the University of Toronto.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

10 painters laid off at ONTC

According to the North Bay Nugget, the ONTC has laid off 2/3 of its refurbishment painting staff due to a lack of work. Transformation doesn't seem so optimistic.

10 painters laid off at ONTC | North Bay Nugget

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Two Industries, One Photo

Two Industries / Deux Industries

Rail meets the road: CN 8808 and 5691 pull a string of autoracks out of the CN Oshawa Yard. The GM Oshawa plant dominates the horizon.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Closing of Ontera sale extended

The sale of Ontera, originally set to wrap up this past Tuesday, is now likely to take until October. While the Competition Bureau Review is part of this delay, the complexity of the ONTC is once again causing the government to have to slow down in its attempt to make a little money.

>>>Closing of Ontera sale extended | North Bay Nugget<<<