Less than a week after the financial collapse of the UK privatization multinational that plows many of Ontario's highways, thousands of citizens and politicians are calling on the provincial government to make snowplowing public again.
"My wife and I have a 17 year old son and a 20 year old son that drive alone and we are deathly afraid every time they head out to privatized roads," said an email to a local MPP from someone who identified himself as Victor. "The roads are very icy due to the absence of maintenance,” the email said.
"This is nothing short of corruption! It's all about money grabbing."
We Own It has created an easy way for people to write to their MPPs about this issue. As of Monday, Jan. 22, nearly 500 people like Victor had used it to tell their MPPs to make plowing public again.
"Sadly, the safest time to travel along the Northern Corridors is just after a string of fatalities which is again the case," wrote Harvey, referring to the accident outside North Bay earlier in January that claimed the lives of three. "You can never put a price on a life but the fuel, cutting edges, equipment and driver wages come first in the eyes of a profit-driven mega company which hold these contracts."
Politicians are also calling for the province to rethink its contracts. Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley told the London Free Press that Carillion's “track record in Ontario is highly suspect." Bradley says fines for non-performance are simply not an effective way to enforce quality, pointing out that Carillion was fined $900,000 in 2015.
“They were publicly whipped for a little while, but I’m not sure things changed much," he said. "I can’t believe the government continued the relationship."
And on social media, hundreds upon hundreds more are tweeting, posting, and sharing information about this issue. "Privatization makes things less efficient because private companies cut corners to improve profit margins," wrote Clay on Facebook. "There is no acceptable level of privatization of public services in the same way there is no acceptable level of glass shards in a meal."
Government MPP Bob Delaney (Mississauga—Streetsville), responded to one of his constituents with a link to a blog post on his website.
The post says "The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has an agreement in place with Carillion Canada that ensures Ontarians will travel on well-maintained Ontario highways during the winter months. This agreement protects some 1,100 jobs in Ontario," but doesn't explain how privatized snowplowing "protects jobs."
For a Kenora resident named Geri, the only thing that's clear is that public snowplowing in neighbouring Manitoba is much better than on her side of the border.
"On Monday, I had to drive to Winnipeg from Kenora for an eye specialist appointment," she wrote. "I was white knuckle driving because the highway between Kenora and the Manitoba border was so terrible.
"But when I got to the Manitoba border, I could hear the angels sing as I saw the nicely sanded highway. On our way back home later that evening, the Ontario portion still hadn't been sanded."