Road maintenance company under investigation
The provincial government is investigating a company it hired to ensure winter road safety, after icy conditions on GTA highways caused dozens of accidents on New Year’s Day, CTV News has learned.
Carillion Canada is paid $87 million per year to maintain highways in eight different regions in the province.
But for the third time in less than two years, the company is being investigated for allegedly not providing adequate services.
On New Year’s Day, a total of 22 crashes occurred on sections of highway the company is responsible for.
The province is now looking into whether Carillion did all it could to help prevent as many accidents as possible.
“We are currently examining how quickly individual salt spreads were dispatched and how much salt was applied to each individual lane to ensure that actions were taken in a timely manner,” said Ministry of Transportation spokesperson Bob Nichols.
This isn’t the first time the company has drawn questions over its response to dangerous road conditions.
In October, CTV Toronto's Paul Bliss reported that Carillion was fined $500,000 for non-compliance. The fine was related to a snowstorm on Nov. 19, 2014. Five centimetres of snow fell quickly across the Greater Toronto area, but there was no salt or sand spread over the QEW in Burlington, Oakville and Mississauga.
As a result, the Ministry of Transportation vowed to look closely at the performance of other contractors during last winter's storms, ordering special audits for every company hired every company hired to keep the roads clear this winter.
Those companies were also ordered to make sure they had enough supplies, equipment and staff for the task.
The company was also fined $400,000 for its inadequate response to another storm in December, 2014.
More than a year after the snowstorm, Carillion is still fighting the government and the fines.
NDP transportation critic Wayne Gates said the Liberals’ use of private contractors isn’t working and is forcing Ontarians to cope with dangerous winter driving conditions.
“When we take our kids and our grandkids and our families on the road, we have to know that they’re safe to drive on.”
Before winter, Transportation Minister Stephen Del Duca assured Ontarians his government was ready for winter road conditions.
Del Duca said he takes his responsibility with winter driving safety very seriously and expects all government contractors and their employees to do the same.
Road maintenance contracts introduced in 2009
The province decided to change its winter roads maintenance program in 2009. In an attempt to reduce costs, it chose the lowest bidding road maintenance contractors, a step critics say has resulted in more dangerous driving conditions.
Minister Steven Del Duca responded to Harris' question on Tuesday, saying that there will be more equipment in remote, rural and urban areas for the upcoming winter season.
"We'll have more anti-icing liquids on the roads before winter storms, so that highways are less slippery when bad weather begins," he added.
This year, the Auditor General of Ontario concluded that the new government contracts have resulted in lower levels of winter highway maintenance.