Ontario is asking for arbitration to try to recover some of the $47 million in fines levied against snow plow operators in recent years for failing to adequately clear highways.

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca says companies contracted to keep highways clear of snow and ice have many ways to appeal any fines levied by the ministry when they don't do the job properly or fast enough.

"A fine is levied in the field and it can be appealed to the region. It can then be appealed to the (ministry) headquarters, and ultimately it can go to mediation, and like any contract it can be litigated," Del Duca said Tuesday. "What I'm doing with trying to go to arbitration now is to get this resolved, have an independent third-party determine what amounts are owed, and move on with this program."

So Del Duca wants the companies to agree to arbitration to try to reach agreement on some of the outstanding fines, but admits they don't have to consent to the process.

He says that would leave the government with the option of suing the contractors, but opposition critics say the contracts themselves were so poorly written that the cases will likely get tossed out of court.

Del Duca says the government is looking to streamline the appeal process for new road maintenance contractors, but that won't do anything to resolve the outstanding fines.

Progressive Conservative transportation critic Michael Harris says a new appeals process won't mean Ontario highways will be any better maintained than they have been in the last few years.