Labrador paving project won't be on time or budget

The government has issued orders to complete a paving project that has been mired in political controversy, although it will come with an extra expense.
Liberals allege $1.5 million spent unnecessarily, reports Peter Cowan 2:20

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has issued orders to complete a paving project that has been mired in political controversy, although it will come with an extra expense.

Liberal transportation critic Tom Osborne said the government has wasted taxpayers' money in how it's handled paving a stretch of the Trans-Labrador Highway. The contract had been awarded last year to Humber Valley Paving when premier-designate Frank Coleman was running it.

Transportation and Works Minister Nick McGrath defends how the government handled the retendering of work on the Trans-Labrador Highway. (CBC)
​Humber Valley Paving was released from its bond this winter, shortly after Coleman turned over control of the company to a former associate. His son, Gene Coleman, negotiated on the company's behalf.

On Wednesday, government announced a $37.5-million tender to Pavex Limited, acknowledging that the bids that came back this year were higher.

"We felt that it was in the best interest to get the job completed on time, on budget to retender the position — the work," McGrath told reporters in April.

'That's what bonds are for'

But the tender will not happen the way that government had wanted. The work that Humber Valley Paving could not complete last year — in large part because of delays caused by forest fires in western Labrador — has been bundled together with other work.

Liberal critic Tom Osborne: 'There's no way out of that, folks.' (CBC)
The new arrangement will mean an extra expense of $1.5 million, which Osborne said could have been avoided if government had held Humber Valley Paving to its bond.

"That's what the bonds are for," Osborne said.

"The bonds would have ensured this job was done for the original tendered price to government. By government doing it this way, they cost the taxpayers $1.5 million and they gave a benefit to Mr. Coleman. There's no way out of that, folks."

McGrath defended how the matter was handled.

"We also saw it as the window to get that project completed this year," he said. "It's a decision we stand by today and was based on the best available information at the time."

Meanwhile, the work will also be completed later than had been planned. Instead of being completed by the end of July, the new contractor has until the end of August.


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