Calling it another Walkerton, Lambton County politicians want the province to answer to some of the damning evidence from Ontario’s auditor general on winter maintenance.
Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s recent report shows the province saved about $35 million by contracting out highway maintenance, but the roads took much longer to clear – twice as long in some cases – and the number of fatal car accidents has increased in that time frame.
In some cases, Lysyk says, the contractors hired didn’t have the equipment to complete the job and there was very little government oversight to make sure the job was done correctly.
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley told county councillors the reduction of winter maintenance on 402 was deliberate and the province should be held accountable.
“I think you can equate it to Walkerton in that the government takes an action that are not reported that causes serious injuries and death to people and then hides the facts saying they are working on changes,” says Bradley. In Walkerton in May, 2000 over 2,000 people became ill and seven people died from EColi in the water of the small town.
Bradley and county councillors are asking staff to investigate if Ontario’s ombudsman can look into “this very serious matter.
“All these years you knew this,” he says. “There have been legal impacts there have been human impact.
“This is beyond making a mistake; this was planned. The government deliberately set out in this direction.”
Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper agreed. His municipality has been voicing concerns for a couple of years about the maintenance of the highway in their region. In March 2014, five firefighters were injured in a multi-car collision on the highway. The firefighters complained of poor road conditions that night. The OPP charged one of the firefighters with careless driving in the incident.
Napper is looking for more specific information for that stretch of highway. Bradley isn’t sure that information is available but says council should try to obtain it.
“I think they have the same right to know what happened on the 402 and those accidents that occurred there.”