Monday, November 16, 2015

ONTC Workers Locked Out Again

Following renewed negotiations on Friday, Unifor unit 12 workers have once again been locked out by the ONTC management since Saturday. Details here.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Continued ONTC Labour Woes

Over the past year or so, collective agreement after collective agreement has come up for renewal and has been successfully renegotiated at the ONTC. However, the agreement covering maintenance and refurbishment staff has proven to be much harder to resolve.

On the one side, the ONTC remains committed to building a new business in order to follow the government-mandated mission to become commercially competitive. On the other, employees represented by Unifor feel that their job security and current benefits are being erased from the proposal being put forward by Ontario Northland.

Things came to a head Wednesday when the Unifor unit 12 employees were locked out by management. Not surprisingly, employees saw this as an unfair bargaining tactic designed to force the new agreement. It seems that this view was shared by the Canada Industrial Relations Board, who ruled the lockout illegal and ordered that it be ended Thursday morning. It seems that the ONTC had given insufficient notice of the lockout and forced its workers off the job without the required warning.

Labour negotiations are often contentious, but while I think it is clear that the ONTC is here to stay, it seems that becoming "competitive" may override the wellbeing of its workforce.

Friday, November 06, 2015

ONTC Cuts Bus Routes

Citing low ridership, the ONTC is cutting back several bus routes in Northeastern Ontario effective November 15.

These include: Cochrane-Matheson, Cochrane-Timmins, Kapuskasing-Hearst, Timmins-Sudbury and North Bay-Timmins.

With many northern residents still taking stock of life without the Northlander, this latest round of cuts has further cemented the divide between southern and northern Ontario. As Gilles Bisson has rightly pointed out, those relying on public transportation were initially promised an enhanced bus service to replace the Northlander. Not only has the enhance bus service not appeared, but bus routes are now being cut.

There is no doubt that the ONTC needed to restructure in order to remain a financially viable entity. However, sustainability appears to have been confused with skeletal service.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ontario PCs blast Liberals for taking $61-million loss on Ontera sale

When the sale of Ontera was announced in late 2012, the numbers simply didn't add up. The unions representing ONTC workers were especially vocal, claiming that the telecommunications division was being undervalued. When the sale was finally approved in the fall of 2014, Bell Aliant acquired Ontera for $6 million, thanks to a government payment of over $50 million. Put simply, the Ontario government decided to sell Ontera - whatever the cost and potential consequences.

A year on, the provincial Tories are claiming that the sale was even more costly than first thought. While the sale garnered $6 million, the consultants who worked on the deal apparently received $6.5 million.

Whenever the government decides to reform the north of the province, things get messy. Throughout the long (and largely futile) attempt to privatise the ONTC, the government has repeatedly lost money while claiming that the sale would save money. In contrast, a properly-subsidised and modern transportation network across the north would ensure a more equitable treatment for people across the province. Of course, politics is rarely about fairness at the moment (despite the overuse of the term in speeches), it is about getting votes and trying not to step on the toes of private corporations.

>>>Ontario PCs blast Liberals for taking $61-million loss on Ontera sale - The Globe and Mail<<<

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Stop paying fees to southern Ontario's busing company, ONTC drivers' union says

The union representing the ONTC's bus drivers is calling on the government to waive the estimated $500,000 in bus terminal user fees the agency pays the government each year. According to the union, this is an unfair practice since the ONTC is being forced to make cuts, including the closure of several of its bus stations in northern Ontario.

The ONTC has been paying fees to the government for decades (the convoluted leasing arrangement for the TEE trains comes to mind), but there is an interesting point in the debate over bus terminal fees. While the ONTC is forced to pay GO Transit for the use of the Yorkdale bus terminal (I assume there are fees for the Bay Street terminal too, but I don't know who collects them), I am not aware of GO charging itself any user fees. Advocates for a publicly-funded ONTC have been calling for a merger between Metrolinx and the ONTC for years as a way to cut costs. Such user fee agreements simply reinforce the separation.

In the end, it comes down to the sort of transportation system people want to have in Ontario. Do we want government-funded public transportation available to all Ontarians, regardless of where they live? Or do we want to starve outlying areas and force people to move to Toronto, where transit infrastructure is reaching breaking point?

>>>Stop paying fees to southern Ontario's busing company, ONTC drivers' union says - CBC News<<<

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Passenger train service generating interest

Ever since RailMark took over, and was quickly forced to suspend, Algoma passenger service earlier this year, the hunt has been on for a new operator. In the interim, communities relying on the train have been stranded. While the bidding process is still ongoing, this article confirms that the ONTC is not among the interested parties.

I hadn't expected Ontario Northland to be interested, but now that I think of it, it would be an ideal candidate. Imagine: a reinstated Northlander; a passenger train between North Bay, Sudbury and the Soo; passenger trains from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst; a passenger link connecting Hearst and Cochrane. In other words, a return to the circle route lost decades ago. It isn't going to happen, but what an opportunity!

>>>Passenger train service generating interest | Sault Star<<<

Sunday, August 16, 2015