Statement by the Minister of Transportation on Winter Maintenance

“Earlier today, the Auditor General released her report on winter highway maintenance in Ontario. I would like to thank the Auditor for her thorough and thoughtful review and recommendations.

I know that being able to travel safely on Ontario’s highways is very important to all Ontarians. Over the past few years and following an internal review, the Ministry of Transportation and its maintenance contractors have been working together to improve the quality of winter maintenance in the province. We’ve added over 100 pieces of equipment, strengthened our oversight, enhanced the way we plow truck climbing and passing lanes and freeway ramps and shoulders, and tendered an improved contract in Kenora.

Today’s report has confirmed what we already knew, despite the improvements we have made – the additional equipment, additional oversight and organizational changes – the current system of winter highway maintenance needs to be better.

That is why last week’s budget includes funding for more equipment changes – dedicated spreaders for both urban congested areas and select locations in northern Ontario, and funding to improve driving conditions with the increased use of de-icing liquids. We are also taking swift action on the Auditor’s recommendations, with several to be in place by the start of next winter.

As a ministry, we have a lot of work to do. But, so do our contractors. I will be meeting with them in person as soon as possible to determine how we can work together to improve this program and their performance.

Further, I have directed ministry staff to provide me with an action plan within 60 days that outlines plans to further strengthen and improve winter maintenance, while addressing the Auditor’s recommendations, to ensure that we are doing everything possible to provide Ontarians with safe highway conditions. I will make that action plan public.

I have also asked the Auditor General to provide a follow up review of the winter maintenance program at the end of the next winter season to review our progress.

I look forward to reporting back on our action plan, our progress implementing the auditor’s recommendations and the additional steps we will be taking to enhance winter maintenance in Ontario.”