MANITOULIN – Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha called out Premier Doug Ford and his government on November 30 for failing to clear Northern highways, putting the safety of Northern drivers at risk and leaving people stranded, after snowfalls forced the closure of sections of Highways 17 and 11.
For the residents of Dubreuilville, lack of road closure notice meant they drove in dangerous conditions only to be forced back.
“Residents of Dubreuilville were dismayed to learn that sections of Highway 17 were closed from Sault Ste. Marie all the way to Terrace Bay because of the weather,” said MPP Mantha. “Winter road closures are nothing new in the North, but what really upset people in Dubreuilville was that the Highway 17 closure was not posted anywhere on Highway 519.”
“People drove out to Highway 17 in poor weather on uncleared roads, only to find out you can’t get to where you are trying to go. Residents of Dubreuilville feel completely let down by the lack of proper winter road maintenance and road closure notices. Will the premier finally admit that his government is continuing to fail Northern Ontario and commit to improving road maintenance on our highways?” said MPP Mantha.
MPP Mantha called on Premier Ford to act on an NDP bill that would improve winter road maintenance of Highways 11 and 17 by classifying them class one highways. By classifying the northern highways, the same as all 400 series highways, snow must be removed within eight hours of the end of a snowfall.
“Making sure that highways are clear of snow isn’t just a matter of convenience for people living in the North,” said MPP Mantha. “Poor winter road conditions cut people off from essential services, prevent us from getting goods to market and lead to fatal highway accidents far too often.”
“All of last week people from my riding contacted my office about the terrible driving conditions and road closures on Highway 17. People like Kathryn Leclaire, who told me her trip home from Thunder Bay to Wawa was one of the worst winter trips she has ever taken. People cannot wait days after a snowstorm to use the highways,” said MPP Mantha.
In 2019 the Conservative government voted against an NDP-led bill by MPP Michael Vanthof that would have required Northern Ontario highways to be clear of snow with the same priority as the 400 series highways in southern Ontario.
The private member’s bill, “would have improved winter highway maintenance,” on the Northern highways, reducing winter closures and requiring they be cleared within eight hours of snowfall.
Mr. Vanthof, “among the biggest backers” of the Making Northern Ontario Highways Safer bill, said before the vote that the bill, if passed, would have saved lives in Northern Ontario.