Plan to Revitalize Ontario Northland Unveiled

October 25, 2012, 3:50 PM EST

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The Association representing unionized employees at Ontario Northland Transportation Commission has developed a plan to revitalize the company and create new jobs and economic opportunities in Ontario's North.

"Not only will we save transportation services and hundreds of existing jobs in the North, but our plan will also create thousands more jobs by providing access to the Ring of Fire," said CAW National Representative Brian Stevens in a news release from The General Chairperson's Association (GCA).

The proposal calls for transferring ownership of the railroad and other assets of the provincially-held ONTC to a new ports authority to be operated under the Canada Marine Act. A first step in the process was the recent creation of The James Bay & Lowlands Ports Trustee Corporation.

The plan was developed after the Ontario government announced in March it planned to divest the ONTC, which was followed by shutdown of ONTC's Northlander passenger train service on September 28.

As part of the plan a new Ring of Fire rail line will be designed and built to ship thousands of tons per day of chromite, nickel and other minerals as well as finished products to markets around the world.

The Ring of Fire is an area of muskeg and silt in the James Bay Lowlands in Northern Ontario, which is undergoing a major mining exploration project. The region is centred on McFaulds Lake approximately 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.

An October 19 GCA release states that ONTC employees have a long tradition of providing rail services in Ontario's North and will provide energy and leverage their position as a significant creditor toward this new deal. "The employees have significant investments in pensions, benefits and their various collective agreements," Stevens said. "We will leverage those investments with the provincial government as the new deal moves forward."
The initiative has support from a wide range of groups in Northern Ontario including First Nations Communities, elected representatives, Northern Ontario communities, mining and other business interests as well as others, the GCA release states.

The GCA represents unionized workers at Ontario Northland, including CAW Local 103, Steelworkers Union, Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Teamsters Canada Rail Conference Maintenance of Way Employees.

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