Here’s to better roads next winter

I would like to begin by wishing all of my constituents a very happy spring.
I know this past winter has been long, hard, and expensive for the majority of us, and we all are very deserving of a little sunshine, warmth, and, of course, the lower heating costs that will come along with summer.
Probably the greatest relief for people living in Northwestern Ontario, however, will be the ability to drive highways without risking life and limb to negotiate their way over treacherous levels of accumulated snow and ice.
This past winter, my constituency offices received a record-breaking number of letters, calls, and comments concerning poor winter road maintenance throughout our region.
Others joined Facebook groups or took to Twitter to voice their concerns.
Because I monitored and listened to your concerns, I spoke on this issue in the legislature on a number of occasions, and also pressed the minister of transportation to come and see for himself the horrible conditions we were forced to deal with in the north.
When my requests for action on this matter were met with silence, I stepped it up a notch.
On April 10, I introduced Motion 70, calling on the Legislative Assembly to establish a select committee to review Ontario’s winter road maintenance contracts with a view at improving road conditions before the 2015 winter season.
The purpose of this committee would be to review a list of requirements including, but not limited to, the clarity of maintenance contracts set out by MTO, penalties and fines for non-compliance, plowing frequency, and patrolling frequency, as well as the existing highway maintenance classifications themselves.
During the introduction of this motion, I stressed that all highways in Northwestern Ontario are critical routes, and that often we don’t have the option of taking an alternative route to get where we have to go for work, medical appointments, school, etc.
Essentially what I presented was a synopsis of all of your input I received this year, and I thank you again for sharing that important information.
I stressed that three of the four contractors responsible for our highways had been fined for inadequate maintenance, yet the problem persisted. Reforms need to be made—and they need to be made now—before history repeats itself next winter.
This issue extends beyond the highway maintenance contracts themselves. We need to explore the economic impact that poor road conditions have on both the public and private sectors, and to take this into account when determining who should be responsible for looking after our roads.
Most importantly, northerners need to weigh in on highway classifications because, after all is said and done, it is northerners who have to drive these roads.
I am pleased to say my motion successfully passed second reading last Thursday and that the committee is now ready to be struck.
It is my sincere hope the government strikes this committee without delay so we can get to the important work of improving the delivery of highway maintenance services in Ontario in advance of next winter.