Tory transport critic Michael Harris says the Liberal government needs to apologize for its lax oversight of winter road clearing and change the standards.
Harris was reacting to a scathing report by Ontario’s auditor general released this week which found a change to the province’s winter road maintenance standards in 2009 has adversely impacted road conditions and put drivers at risk. The province moved from a requirement to ensure roads were cleared to the bare pavement within two hours of a snowfall to an eight-hour standard, which the auditor general found isn’t actually being followed in all cases.
“It’s the change in 2009 when they were trying to save a few bucks that has now resulted in poor standards on Ontario highways,” Harris said. “I was hoping for the minister to actually apologize to Ontarians and take responsibility for this. I didn’t hear that (Wednesday) from him and that’s unfortunate.”
Harris said the government needs to put into place standards that keep Ontarians safe including measures to ensure contractors who win tenders to do the work have the equipment to do the job. The MTO also needs to beef-up oversight of contractors, he said.
“Instead of proactively being out on the roads, they’ve got folks sitting at desks reviewing paperwork on the problem after the fact. That’s not where the money should be spent.”
Transport Minister Steven Del Duca told reporters that he plans to meet with contractors about the AG’s report.
“In short order I’ll be meeting with all of our area maintenance contractors to convey to them very directly what our expectations are for the coming season and to hear back them about how we can continue to make sure that we provide the outcome Ontarians expect and deserve.”
Del Duca said part of the ministry’s plan to review the standards will be to compare them to other states and provinces.
“Not every other province or jurisdiction in the United States for example follows exactly the same regime that we do,” he said. So, we’re going to make sure we do a true comparable scan across other jurisdictions and take a look at whether it make sense for us to lower that eight-hour bare pavement achievement standard.”