Ontario Northland Transportation Commission

Ontario Northland Transportation Commission is a provincial CROWN CORPORATION which operates a transportation and communication network throughout northeastern Ontario. The ONTC is responsible to the Ontario government through the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.

Ontario Northland Transportation Commission

Ontario Northland Transportation Commission is a provincial CROWN CORPORATION which operates a transportation and communication network throughout northeastern Ontario. The ONTC is responsible to the Ontario government through the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. Established by provincial statute in 1902 as the government-owned Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway, it was designed to open up resources and encourage settlement northward from the city of NORTH BAY.

Between 1903 and 1909, construction of the railway extended to a junction with the National Transcontinental Railway at the town of Cochrane, a distance of 390 km. Branch lines made possible the exploitation of mineral and timber resources and the founding of new towns such as Cobalt, Timmins and Iroquois Falls. In the 1920s the railway was extended another 300 km northward, from Cochrane to Moosonee at the southern tip of James Bay (reached 1932), and from Swastika eastward to the gold of Kirkland Lake and the copper and zinc of Rouyn-Noranda.

At the same time that lucrative gold mines were being established (Hollinger, Dome, McIntyre, Lake Shore and Teck), and forest products hauled southward, the T&NO Railway was also opening northeast Ontario to farming and settlement. It was a community railway; the first 4 decades of its history were identified with the social and cultural life of the northeast, before the advent of highways, automobiles and buses. Because of its vital regional function, the commission has been administered like a public corporation by successive Ontario governments, the Cabinet and the premier functioning as major shareholders. The beneficiaries of their partisan politics, however, have generally been small businessmen from the north, so that local political patronage has been combined with a genuine commercial approach to the operation of the commission as a vehicle of development. To reflect its expanding role for the whole of northeastern Ontario, the provincial government of Premier George DREW changed the name to Ontario Northland Transportation Commission in 1946.

Over the following 2 decades, diesel locomotives steadily replaced steam; trucks, buses, boats and Otter aircraft were purchased to extend transportation facilities, while further investments were made to gain control of electronic means for the integration of long-distance TELEPHONES and TELECOMMUNICATIONS.

For 25 years, ONTC operated NorOntair, an airline that served 17 communities; ONTC shut down the airline in 1996 because of financial difficulties. The Ontario Northland Telecommunications division was founded in 1989 to provide computer systems sales and services in northern Ontario. It runs an INTERNET service provider, ONLINK.

In 1994 ONTC had assets worth $280 million and a net income of $1 million. Its 1995 operating budget was $150 million. Passenger rail and ferry services are subsidized annually by the provincial government, while rail freight, telecommunications and bus passenger services are operated as commercial enterprises. ONTC has 1200 employees.


Further Reading

  • Robert J. Surtees, Northern Connection: Ontario Northland Since 1902 (1992); Albert Tucker, Steam into Wilderness (1978).