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Privatisation called off

01 Jul 2003

CANADIAN National has terminated negotiations to acquire Ontario Northland Railway, blaming the provincial government's demands for seven-year job guarantees. Ontario had hoped to privatise ONRail, which serves Northern Ontario and northwest Québec, but wanted to ensure staff received employment assurances similar to those enjoyed by civil servants.

Last October CN was selected from three bidders to begin exclusive negotiations. Following CN's withdrawal, Minister of Northern Development & Mines Jim Wilson said privatisation was no longer being considered. 'I doubt if there is any single group with both the money and the commitment to job protection guarantees we want, so we are going to hang on to the company'. CN Executive Vice-President Claude Mongeau said the failure was 'a missed opportunity for rail freight shippers and passengers of northeastern Ontario, and for taxpayers who heavily subsidise ONRail operations.'

H BNSF, CN, Canadian Pacific, OmniTRAX and Union Pacific are reported to have expressed interest in taking over BC Rail from the British Columbia government. The infrastructure will remain publicly-owned, with the private-sector concessionaire responsible for maintenance and the operation of freight services.