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November 17, 2023

The Ford government has some political potholes to fix for Northern Ontarians


November 17, 2023

Here in the North, we all face one fundamental reality – distance and travel are important in our lives. Highway travel is almost an absolute necessity for practically all Northerners at some point in our lifetime, be it for employment, school, shopping and even healthcare. Because it is an integral part of our lives, Northern Ontarians understand the importance of year-round highway maintenance. We understand that if we want our loved ones to return home safely when they travel we must keep our roads in top-notch condition all year round. This includes keeping our highways clear of snow and ice.

Without question, almost anything we do here in the North involves some amount of travel on a provincial highway. As the MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin, I am very aware of this and spend much time personally following up on concerns in my travels. The responses in the Legislature or letter often begin by reminding me that safe roads are paramount to the Ford government. Yet I can’t help but think that if what they say is true about safety being paramount, how do they explain that the most common complaints my office receives from constituents are about road concerns?

It seems that the government’s statement does not align itself with reality.

A prime example of this can be found in Macdonald, Merideth and Aberdeen Twp. in Echo Bay at the junction of Highways 638 and 17. During heavy rainfall or the spring melt, the curved access/exit for Hwy 17 floods several times a year. And when I say floods, I mean water goes right up as high as the rims of a pick-up.

My office has consistently pressed the government to act on this problem since 2015. And lately, the team has noted a significant rise in constituent complaints about this.

As evidence of the problem, my office has shared multiple videos taken by constituents of what is locally known as the Echo Bay Car Wash. You should see the colossal spray thrown up by vehicles trying to drive through it. The water sprays everywhere, including on vehicle windshields, which poses a safety issue. Who knows how deep the water is ahead or if the road base has been washed out? This could result in severe and preventable accidents.

The problem is that the roadbed has been sinking year after year, so it is now below the flood level of the surrounding land. The ground is so soft in that area that when they were building the 4-lane road, the construction company is said to have lost an entire bulldozer that just sunk right out of sight.

My office raised the flooding issue again in early September of this year, asking for the Ford government plans to address this ongoing safety issue and when constituents can expect it to be resolved. And keep in mind, we have been raising this issue since 2015.

Disappointingly the government replied that, in their view, it is just a drainage problem. They plan to hire an engineering consultant to conduct an environmental assessment. The data will be used to generate alternatives for consideration. “As such, the earliest commencement date for construction work is estimated to be in 2026.”

Does this reflect a responsible, safety above-all-else attitude by the Ford government? I think not. This response is anything but satisfactory as it entirely discounts the well-being of Northern Ontarians who travel the TransCanada in this region.

Another example of the government not taking steps to ensure the good repair our highways here in the North can be found on Hwy 638 heading north from Bruce Mines through Rydal Bank and over to Echo Bay. 638 was resurfaced just a couple of years ago. Even so, the road is already riddled with potholes.

From what I have learned, it seems that before resurfacing 638, the road was in bad shape. A contractor was hired to resurface the road. However, it seems the contractor was not directed to address the original damage. The problems were quite literally just paved over. What happens if you don’t repair and prime a wall before repainting? The problems just come right back to haunt you. The same is true if you don’t fix a roadway before resurfacing it.

I should also point out that my team gets many complaints throughout the riding. We have heard from constituents in all corners expressing frustration of wasted tax dollars. They complain that after mere months since repair; some roads need further attention in the same spots due to spotty workmanship; potholes forming on highways that were resurfaced from end to end just months earlier; 1metre tall tree stumps along the roads that were cut in deep winter snow that should have been completed in the fall or spring; to name but a few.

How is it that the Ford government can find $8 billion or more to build Hwy 413 in Southern Ontario (which studies have shown will do nothing to improve traffic problems), but they can’t find a tiny fraction of this amount to fix the highway problems Northerners have been putting up with for years?

This Conservative government knows the right things to say to convince voters they care deeply for our safety and well-being. But, when it is time to put their money where their mouth is, suddenly, what they say is just all meaningless talk and empty promises. They want Northern Ontarians to believe they are busting a gut for us, and we just have to wait our turn and be patient.

But while we are “waiting our turn,” how many lives will be compromised or lost?

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at mmantha-co@ola.org or by phone Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.      

Michael Mantha MPP/député      

Algoma-Manitoulin       

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