Yesterday, the government announced that there would be an announcement about the ONTC today. There was, and today the saga is all over. Speaking in North Bay, Michael Gravelle announced that the ONTC will remain in government hands and the province plans to invest $23 million over three years to buy new buses and refurbish the rolling stock for the Polar Bear Express.
Of course, it isn't that simple. Ontera, the telecommunications division, is expected to be sold to Bell Aliant in a joint project with the government which will see about $30 million invested in infrastructure.
I wrapped up research for Call of the Northland on April 1, so I will be reopening it to take the announcement into account.
Thinking back over the past two years, this is probably the best outcome that could be expected. Unfortunately, the Northlander is gone and it is a real loss for the whole province. If a part of the ONTC had to be sold off, Ontera was probably the one that made sense. The question now is how will the ONTC be transformed to allow it to operate in a more efficient way. We need to avoid having to do this all over again in a few years.
There are, however, many unanswered questions. What about the New Deal/Port Authority Plan? How much has this saga actually cost? What restructuring will actually happen? What if an election is called? What development over the past two years actually changed the government's mind? Time will tell, provided the government remains committed to a more transparent process.
All in all, the uncertainty is over, the majority of the ONTC will remain in government hands and I would hope that most jobs are safe. I hope that the government has learned from the past two years: do your homework before you announce a divestment that won't work!