The issue of privatized snowplowing in Ontario was thrust into the headlines in early 2018 when the UK privatization giant Carillion collapsed financially.
"Their track record in Ontario is highly suspect," said Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley in an interview shortly after the collapse of Carillion, which has contracts to plow eight sections of highways in the province.
But this isn't the first time that Carillion, or privatized snowplowing in general, has made headlines. A number of deadly accidents and a damning report by Ontario's Auditor General have kept the issue of privatized snowplowing in the news for the last number of years.
“In the past, highways were cleared much faster,” Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk told reporters when she released her report in 2015, noting that “preliminary results show an increase in the number of deaths on Ontario highways in 2013 where snow, slush or ice was a factor.”
According to Lysyk's report, it takes privatized snowplowing companies like Carillion twice as long to clear highways after storms than it did when the plowing was being managed directly by the Ministry of Transportation. She found that ministry employees had warned that some of the privatized companies didn't have the appropriate equipment to do the job properly, but that the contracts were awarded anyway.
In 2015, a number of privatized snowplowing companies were fined for poor performance.
And Carillion has a particularly troubled history in snowplowing:
- In 2015, Carillion was fined $900,000 for poor performance.
- In 2016, Carillion pleaded guilty to illegally dumping oil and paint coating.
- In 2017, Carillion abandoned its snowplowing contract in the Huntsville area after a string of complaints from the public.
In the wake of Carillion's financial collapse, We Own It began offering supporters a way to easily tell their MPPs to bring Ontario's privatized snowplowing back in house. In less than a week, more than 500 Ontarians had demand that Queen's Park make plowing public again.