The NDP says documents it has obtained confirm what CBC Windsor was first to report back in July of 2013: that sub-standard girders were installed in the Herb Gray Parkway even though the Ministry of Transportation knew months before that they didn’t meet code.
Windsor-Tecumseh NDP MPP Percy Hatfield said documents his party obtained through a freedom of information request show Ministry of Transportation staff knew in October 2012 hundreds of girders manufactured for the $1.4-billion project were sub-standard.
Hatfield claims the documents show that former Minister of Transportation Bob Chiareli’s office knew in December of 2012.
However, Ontario's Ministry of Transportation told CBC Windsor on July 22, 2013 that it knew in "late 2012" a number of girders manufactured for the Herb Gray Parkway did not meet code.
"MTO first became aware that the girders in question did not meet the requirements of the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code in late 2012 and has been working with Infrastructure Ontario, the project manager, to gather information in order to develop a solution," MTO spokesperson Bob Nichols wrote in an email to CBC Windsor on July 22, 2013.
Never the less, some of those girders were installed in January 2013.
“[There] was a problem with the girders and nothing was done,” Hatifeld told reporters Monday in Toronto. “Staff concerns ended up on the minister’s desk, in the highest offices, and still nothing was done.”
Hatfield called the situation “very concerning.”
“It’s now clear that the minister’s office knew of the safety issues for months and turned a blind eye,” Hatfield said. “They were more interested in … keeping the project on schedule than getting the job done right.”
Hatifeld alleged the Liberals didn’t go public with the information until weeks before a byelection in Windsor-Tecumseh. Hatfield won that riding.
“When they knew people might be at risk, they shrugged their shoulders. But when Liberal seats might be at risk, there were emergency weekend meetings at the Premier’s office,” Hatfield said, three days before the Liberals are scheduled to unveil their next budget.
Minister of Transportation spokesperson Patrick Searle said in a media release that Hatfield is “flat wrong.”
“The minister acted immediately once learning of potential questions regarding the girders of the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway,” he wrote, referring to Minister Glenn Murray, who replaced Chiareli once Kathleen Wynne replaced Dalton McGuinty as premier.
Searle said Murray was first briefed by the Ministry of Transportation on June 19, 2013,
“Immediately following that briefing, he moved to ensure that no further girders would be installed,” Searle said.