Newspaper article The Canadian Press

McGuinty Promises to Keep Buses Running after Ontario Northland Selloff

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

McGuinty Promises to Keep Buses Running after Ontario Northland Selloff

Article excerpt

McGuinty vows to keep northern buses running

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SUDBURY, Ont. - Premier Dalton McGuinty is vowing to keep Ontario Northland buses running even after the Crown agency is sold off to fight the province's $15-billion deficit.

Speaking at a party convention in Sudbury, McGuinty promised to keep the bus lines going amid resistance in northern Ontario to the privatization scheme.

"If you have a bus service right now that's being delivered by ONTC, we will make sure that bus service continues to run," he said after his speech.

The governing Liberals had promised to keep subsidizing the money-losing feeder bus lines, but New Democrat France Gelinas said it's the first time McGuinty has guaranteed that the buses will keep running.

"We know that some of them will always be run at a deficit because the population density is not there to support them, so I guess that's one little step forward," she said.

"It's very tiny. I celebrate the small victory. The rest of it -- we still have to climb Mount Everest here to get this decision reversed."

McGuinty's promise may also appease irate northern residents who say Ontario Northland Transit Commission provides a vital service in a region where people often have to travel long distances to get to work, school or access other public services like hospitals.

More than a hundred demonstrators rallied outside the hall at Laurentian University where the premier was speaking to stop the privatization of the transit service.

They invited McGuinty to meet with them, but he declined, saying Northern Development Minister Rick Bartolucci -- who is trying to hold on to his Sudbury riding -- would connect with them.

While he's sympathetic to their cause, McGuinty said the cash-strapped government just can't sustain a rail and bus service that's losing money when the province needs to focus on investing in things like homecare, nursing homes and post-secondary education.

"I want to assure all the communities affected that we'll work closely with them to ensure that there's a smooth a transition as possible, so that transportation services are still there for them," the premier said.

"But we're just not getting the value for our money that we have a responsibility to get. …

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