TORONTO, Nov. 21, 2013 /CNW/ - While much public attention has been
focused on the Herb Gray Parkway in recent weeks, with hundreds of
girders having to be scrapped because of safety concerns, there are
many other infrastructure projects across the province where lack of
government oversight poses similar risk.
The Canadian Council of Independent Laboratories (CCIL) today warned
that dozens of other road and bridge construction contracts entered into by the
Ontario government over the last few years have not required any
independent testing or inspection.
That means taxpayers may be faced with the costs of repairing or
replacing this infrastructure years earlier than expected, and public
safety may be endangered as there are now fewer checks against
structural failures and unsafe construction and designs.
"As we've seen in the case of the Herb Gray Parkway, the provincial
government has no direct way of knowing whether the materials and
construction methods used in these projects meet standards," says
Derwyn Reuber, Executive Director of CCIL.
At the heart of the issue are new types of procurement arrangements,
such as design-build and performance-based contracts, used by the
Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO). Under these new types of
contracts, the contractors are typically responsible for warranting or
maintaining the infrastructure for a period of time, and therefore it
is argued that independent testing and inspections are unnecessary.
"The flaw in that logic, of course, is that the warranty periods are
typically much shorter than the expected life of the infrastructure,"
Reuber explains. For example, roads have a three to seven-year warranty
period under some of these new contracts, while they should last 20
years. In some instances, the warranty period for bridges is five
years, while their expected life is 60-100 years.
"When the maintenance or warranty period is up, the contractor is off
the hook and any further problems become the responsibility of
government. So you can see, this new system is skewed to meeting only
short-term performance targets, not long-term needs," says Reuber.
"Without independent testing and inspection, there is huge potential for
shortcuts to be taken in building Ontario's critically important
Earlier this year, MTO released a list of 39 Design-Build projects that
are proceeding under the new contract arrangements in 2013-2014 and
2014-2015. In addition, there are many more performance-based and
minimum oversight contracts which also do not require independent
As well, Infrastructure Ontario continues to expand its use of this new
contracting model, called Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP).
These projects include work on hospitals, colleges, and rapid transit
"How many of these contracts are exempt from independent testing? We
don't know, but we worry that government is proceeding to spend
billions of dollars on infrastructure without the proper quality
assurance checks," Reuber notes.
CCIL is urging the Ontario government to require all public
infrastructure projects to be subject to independent testing and
inspection. To ensure independence and to protect the public interests,
these services should be retained by, and the findings should be
reported directly to, government.
The province is currently conducting a review of the AFP model.
However, few details of the review are known, and it is unclear when
the report will be made public.
CCIL represents the independent, private-sector laboratories in Canada.
Because CCIL members are independent, they have no vested interest in
the outcome of their testing. They are able to conduct investigations
and render reports objectively and without bias.
In Ontario, members operate more than 160 independent laboratory
facilities. CCIL member services are vitally important in helping to
protect the public from structural collapses, building failures,
dangerous and unsafe construction methods, and many other threats.
SOURCE: Canadian Council of Independent Laboratories
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