Could snow removal become a problem in southwestern Ontario?
Turmoil at Carillion, the maintenance company for London area, has some nervous about the next snowfall
Despite Carillion Canada's promise to continue road maintenance throughout the winter season, London West MPP, Peggy Sattler, said her office phone has been ringing steadily with calls from constituents worried about the maintenance company's follow-through.
"Winter road safety is a high priority, especially with all of the traffic, the mobility of people from London who have to go to Toronto on a regular basis," said Sattler.
"People want to feel that their safety won't be compromised when they are driving on 400 series highways."
Carillion Canada received creditor protection in January after the collapse of its UK-based parent company.
The company has numerous road maintenance contracts throughout the province, including the Chatham and London zones that extend from Windsor to Guelph.
Chris Traini, county engineer for Middlesex, echoed Sattler's concerns. He said he was heartened by Carillion's promise to maintain operations throughout the winter, but that any service hiccups could have a big impact for people in Middlesex County.
"It would be a winter maintenance crisis for us," said Traini.
"If people can't travel on the 400-series highways, they'll have no other choice but to take county roads and township and London roads, because there are very few secondary provincial highways left in the province."
Critics want details on contingency plan
Ontario NDP transportation critic, Wayne Gates, has been outspoken about his lack of confidence in Carillion's ability to maintain the province's roads.
Gates said he's received calls from workers concerned about their ability to continue delivering service and has called on the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) to release the details of their agreement with Carillion.
"It's going to snow again in the province of Ontario and we want to make sure that nobody, because of our roads not being taken care of, is going end up in an accident, or worse, killed, on our highways," said Gates.
Gates' progressive conservative counterpart, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP, Michael Harris, said he's also nervous about maintaining roads through the rest of the winter. He called on the province to at least provide evidence of a back-up plan, but stopped short of asking MTO to release their Carillion agreement.
"At a turn we could have a significant storm, and we need to know that those areas that are currently maintained by Carillion have the resources and the ability to perform their contractual obligations," said Harris.
Carillion promises business as usual
In its creditor protection filing, Carillion said the company would have the funds to stay operational through February 17, 2018, and that it would explore additional financing.
MTO said they're working with the company to maintain roads throughout the winter season, and are keeping an eye on the balance sheet.
"MTO has and will continue to pay Carillion Canada only for the services they provide, and we are closely monitoring funds paid to Carillion to verify that all employees and suppliers working to maintain Ontario's highways are paid," said spokesperson, Liane Fisher Bloxam, in an email statement.
Spokesperson, Cody Johnstone, said the company has no plans to halt services and that their employees are still being paid.
"We continue to work with MTO to safeguard the travelling public through the robust delivery of highways maintenance services, including winter maintenance."
Meanwhile, Peggy Sattler is bracing for more phone calls the next time a snowstorm hits.
"Right now we're in a mild spell," she said. "If we see a return of winter weather it's going to be a lot more of a priority, because we're in just such a vacuum of information."