Editorial cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday May 1, 2015
Ontario’s winter roads ‘less safe’ since privatization: auditor
Ontario saved millions but put lives in jeopardy by contracting out highway snow clearing and other winter road maintenance with poor oversight, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk says in a damning new report.
“In the past, highways were cleared much faster,” the auditor told reporters Wednesday, noting that “preliminary results show an increase in the number of deaths on Ontario highways in 2013 where snow, slush or ice was a factor.”
It’s taking twice as long to clear highways to bare pavement after storms than it did five years ago under a new system of “performance-based” contracts with specified service levels and no more on-the-road supervision by Ministry of Transportation staff.
Lysyk said she was stunned to find the Liberal government kept awarding the contracts despite warnings from Ministry of Transportation engineers that many low bidders didn’t have enough equipment to do the job properly.
In one startling case a year ago, an unnamed northern Ontario contractor refused to clear winter roads at one point and was fined for poor performance following an audit prompted by a pileup of 14 tractor trailers that forced an extensive highway closure.
Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca refused to apologize for the problems but said that “there’s no doubt there needs to be improvements. I will get this right.”
Del Duca said 105 pieces of snow removal, de-icing, salting and sanding equipment have been added in the past year and 20 inspectors added to keep better track of contractors, with whom he will meet in the coming weeks. (Source: Toronto Star)