The protest in Sudbury yesterday was a success, with 12 speakers representing a variety of groups, governments and businesses addressing the crowd of over 300 people. Neither Dalton McGuinty nor Rick Bartolucci took time away from the Liberal Party meeting to address the crowd that had gathered outside Laurentian University. The government's continued refusal to speak with delegations from northern Ontario shows how little they care about the potential impact the divestment of the ONTC will have. They have continued to insist that this is a transparent process, yet they refuse to meet with the very people that the divestment will affect and presented the plan as a done deal.
McGuinty was asked about the difference between the public transit systems in northern and southern Ontario and whether his plan set a precedent for the privatisation of other transit services. He suggested that the two systems could not be compared as it would be an "apples and oranges comparison." While it is true that northern Ontario does not need 12-car GO trains every few minutes during rush hour, or frequent GO bus connections, the region does need the services that Ontario Northland provides. McGuinty, inadvertently I suspect, created an 'us and them' situation when he further said that the government "keep[s] increasing the amount of subsidies (given to Ontario Northland). The losses keep getting larger." From this comment, we can infer that once an essential government service becomes too costly (which is a debatable claim in this instance), it can be dismantled, especially if it happens to be in a part of Ontario that does not normally elect Liberal MPPs. He praised economic development in Sudbury, a Liberal riding, while despairing of the growing subsidy for the ONTC in the northern Ontario, a largely NDP voting area. The choice of Sudbury, I suspect, was also a tactical move, a little patch of Liberal red in a vast swath of NDP orange.
While it is doubtful whether any change will come after this protest, it is clear that opposition to the divestment is strong and will continue.
Protesters call out premier over ONTC decision - The North Bay Nugget