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Asphalt accusations

Get ready for some fallout


February 2, 2017
By Andrew Snook


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February 3, 2017 – Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation has a lot of highway and bridge infrastructure to look after. The MTO oversees approximately 40,000 kilometres of highway lanes spread over 17,000 kilometres and nearly 5,000 bridges and culverts. That’s a lot of ground to cover. After reading the most recent Auditor General’s report from Bonnie Lysyk, it doesn’t sound like she thinks MTO is doing the best job managing the province’s highway and bridge assets, which are valued at $82 billion.

Lysyk’s report stated that substandard asphalt used on major highways has added millions in additional road maintenance costs for taxpayers due to premature cracking.

In the summary of the report she listed her main observations regarding the audit. These include:

  • Premature cracks in highways have significantly increased ministry’s highway-repair costs.
  • Ministry pays contractors bonuses for meeting the requirements of the contract, something contractors are always expected to do.
  • Ministry delayed implementing tests to identify asphalt likely to crack prematurely.
  • Ministry policies changed to benefit the Ontario Road Builders’ Association (contractors’ association).
  • A Ministry policy changed to allow contractors to delay paying fines; some fines are now uncollectible.
  • New policy no longer discourages litigious contractors from repeatedly suing the ministry.
  • The ministry changed its dispute resolution policy, providing incentive for contractors to dispute more often.
  • Engineers who certify structures are built correctly are hired by the contractor, and have provided false certifications.
  • The ministry awards new projects to contractors that have breached safety regulations.
  • The ministry is lenient in managing poorly performing contractors.

When you dive into the details in each point she makes, it’s abundantly clear that she’s not giving the management of the province’s highways and bridges a gold star. This, unsurprisingly, prompted a response from the province’s road building associations.

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The Ontario Road Builders Association expressed disappointment with the auditor general’s report, calling Lysyk’s comments “a clear mischaracterization of the relationship between ORBA, the Ministry of Transportation, and discussions on the issues concerning our industry,” adding that the association has been and remains “committed to participating in what we consider to be transparent, good faith discussions with public sector agencies to the benefit of all Ontarians.”

The Ontario Hot Mix Producers’ Association (OHMPA), which has been the authoritative voice for the asphalt producing industry for decades, stated it was “surprised and extremely displeased to hear that industry is being characterized in this way” and added that it disagrees with the report’s conclusions and “strongly object to the inconsistent assertions made in the report.”

With the MTO heavily criticized for the mismanagement of the province’s highway and bridge infrastructure, and the accusation that policy has changed in a way that benefitted a major association, one can assume that the issues regarding this report are far from over. So I ask you, the reader, what are your thoughts regarding the Auditor General’s report? Give it a read and email me your comments.

To read the full report, visit www.auditor.on.ca/en/content/annualreports/arbyyear/ar2016.html.


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