New rules for contractors after shoddy asphalt used on Ontario highways
Sandie Benitah and Courtney Greenberg, CP24.com
Published Friday, February 24, 2017 8:23PM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 24, 2017 9:57PM EST
Contractors hired by the province will face stricter rules, the Liberal government announced Friday, months after an Auditor General report uncovered taxpayers had been cheated by companies using shoddy asphalt to pave Ontario highways.
Last November, Auditor-General Bonnie Lysyk revealed in her annual report that contractors hired to pave Ontario’s major highways submitted high-quality asphalt for testing but ended up using a lower grade asphalt on the roadway. The province used to hand out bonuses to companies who used high quality asphalt – asphalt with a life expectancy of about 15 years.
But when there were cracks in the road less than three years later, the government doled out millions more to have them repaved.
Stretches of the 400 and 403 highways and the QEW have all had to be repaved because of the shoddy materials that were first used.
Opposition critics called this a scandalous “rip-off” of the Ontario taxpayer but on Friday, the government vowed to implement 50 specific changes during a 60-day action plan.
Transport Minister Steven Del Duca said some of the new changes will include raising the benchmark for asphalt smoothness, conducting more inspections and penalizing contractors who pave substandard roads.
A new test will also be employed to determine if shoddy asphalt is being used.
“I think our contactor partners understand the importance and they understand that we share an obligation to deliver not only positive outcomes and final products that are as per the contracts, but that we retain the faith of the public,” Del Duca said.
When asked why contractors who did substandard work would receive government bonuses, the transport minister insisted his new plan will eliminate bonuses and put pressure on contractors to do quality work. He however refused to address his government’s actions.
“I'm not going to comment on individual items that may have been contained in the auditor’s report," he said.
NDP MPP Wayne Gates, who also serves as the transportation critic said the situation is “not fair.”
"They should never get bonuses,” he said. “It should have never been part of the agreement that was signed between the government and the companies. I don’t understand, in the province of Ontario, why you would do that. It makes absolutely no sense. I think it’s not fair to the taxpayers.”