Dangerous road conditions continue to threaten driver safety and leave northern Ontario families stranded: NDP

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QUEEN’S PARK—In question period on Tuesday, Timiskaming—Cochrane NDP MPP John Vanthof called on the Wynne government to make northern highways safer by improving winter maintenance standards.

“Last Friday morning, Dec. 8, there was a tragic collision on Highway 11,” said Vanthof. “Two transports collided on the Pan Lake corner, and our thoughts go out to the families of the deceased. What makes this even more tragic is on November 24 of last year, on exactly the same corner, another person in a transport lost their life. What makes this even more tragic is on December 12, 2012, again in the same place, another life was lost.

“Each time the highway is closed, people in northern Ontario are cut off because there is no detour. People are starting to be very afraid to drive on the Trans-Canada.”

According to the most recent statistics provided in the 2014 Ontario Road Safety report, the occupants of a vehicle registered in Temiskaming are four times more likely to die on a provincial highway in that district, than occupants of vehicles registered anywhere else in Ontario.

“That’s why the government has to step in,” said Vanthof. “To the towns and the people, the road is starting to be seen as a death trap, and I don’t say that lightly. This is just one example. We have to step in and actually do the right thing.

“We don’t have subways,” said Vanthof.  “We don’t have passenger trains. We don’t have LRTs. We have one road, and it needs to be safe, Minister, now.”


Hansard – December 12, 2017 – Question Period

Highway safety

Mr. John Vanthof: My question is to the Deputy Premier. Last Friday morning, December 8, there was a tragic collision on Highway 11. Two transports collided on the Pan Lake corner, and our thoughts go out to the families of the deceased.

What makes this even more tragic is on November 24 of last year, on exactly the same corner, another person in a transport lost their life.

What makes this even more tragic is on December 12, 2012, again in the same place, another life was lost.

Each time the highway is closed, people in northern Ontario are cut off because there is no detour. People are starting to be very afraid to drive on the Trans-Canada. When will the minister step in and ensure that winter maintenance standards and highway construction is actually done correctly on this stretch of road?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: To the Minister of Transportation.

Hon. Steven Del Duca: I thank the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane for the question. He and I have had a chance to speak about this informally here in the chamber over the last couple of days. I have explained to him that I will ask the ministry—in fact, I have asked the ministry to go and take a look specifically at this particular section of Highway 11 that, as he points out in his question, has had some challenges over the last couple of years. That’s work that we will undertake, and I’d be happy to inform him and/or the House once I have that update for him.

I will say, over the last couple of years as it relates specifically to the winter maintenance program that the ministry runs, we have continued to invest significantly in terms of the resources that are needed both in the north for our northern highways and also in the south. We have more pieces of equipment out on our roads and highways, including in northern Ontario, than we have had certainly prior to the last three years. We are constantly working with our communities and working with our contractor partners to make sure that we have the appropriate resources deployed, and I’ll have more to say in a follow-up answer to this question.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Vanthof: Since my discussion with the minister, I’ve also had some time to do some research. According to the most recent statistics provided by the government in a 2014 Ontario Road Safety Annual Report, the occupants of a vehicle registered in the district of Timiskaming are four times more likely to die in a collision than occupants of vehicles registered anywhere else in Ontario, and that’s because they have to drive on that road.

That’s why the government has to step in and look. To the towns and the people, that road is starting to be seen as a death trap, and I don’t say that lightly. This is just one example. We have to step in and actually do the right thing.

We don’t have subways. We don’t have passenger trains. We don’t have LRTs. We have one road, and it needs to be safe, Minister, now.

Hon. Steven Del Duca: I thank the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane for his follow-up question. I certainly respect not only his advocacy, but his passion which is obviously clear in the way that he has asked the question today.

I will say, as I said in my opening answer, our government continues to invest in our winter maintenance program, including in northern Ontario. It seems—

Ms. Catherine Fife: That’s not what the auditor says.

Hon. Steven Del Duca: Notwithstanding what the member from Kitchener just said, from the NDP caucus, in fact the auditor did recognize last year that we had made substantial improvements in the program, both in Kitchener and in the north of the province. Having said that, I understand that our work is not yet done. The member’s question ties in both highway construction and investments in the infrastructure and also the winter maintenance program. I’ve already referenced what we’re doing in winter maintenance.

I will also say, Speaker: As I believe all members know, over the last number of years, certainly, in the last couple in particular, the amount of money that we are investing as a government in our northern highways program is unprecedented, but we know that we have to continue to do more, and in subsequent years through budgets presented by the Minister of Finance, I have no doubt that we’ll continue to invest in this and in other highways to make—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. New question.