Update: Minister Refutes NDP Girder Claims

New Democratic Party provincial representative for Windsor-Tecumseh, Percy Hatfield delivers a speech at a nomination meeting held at the Serbian Centre in Windsor, May 16, 2013.

Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield accuses staff in the Transportation Minsiter’s office of knowing for months there were safety concerns about girders installed on the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Pkwy before the problems went public, but a spokesman for the Transportation Minister says, “the NDP is flat wrong.”

This morning, Hatfield released papers obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request at a news conference at Queen’s Park. He says it goes back to December 2012 when Bob Chiarelli was Transportation Minister. “The same people that worked in his office went over to Minister Murray’s office when he took over in February (2013),” says Hatfield. “February 14th, Minister Murray’s office said they weren’t going to take any action on the concerns that were raised.”

Hatfield says the Ministry only went public with the concerns when faced with the possibility Premier Kathleen Wynne would be questioned about it during a by-election campaign stop in Windsor in June 2013.

A statement from Murray’s press secretary, Patrick Searle refutes the claims.

“The NDP is flat wrong. The Minister acted immediately once learning of potential questions regarding the girders of the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway. He was first briefed by the Ministry of Transportation on June 19th. Immediately following that briefing, he moved to ensure that no further girders would be installed. Between June 19th and his announcement of a review on Monday, July 22nd, the Minister had five formal briefings with MTO and Infrastructure Ontario officials. From the beginning, the Minister was clear in his statement that the girders in question would be removed, unless their safety and durability could be assured. In November, the Windsor Essex Mobility Group made the decision to remove the girders, at no cost to Ontario’s taxpayers.

Included in the FOI released to the Ontario NDP was this attached Reader’s Note, prepared by officials in the Ministry of Transportation.

January 24, 2014
Reader’s Note (Chronology)

Although the note reflects that the Minister’s office staff were present in meetings, it should be noted that discussions at those meetings focused on project milestones and evolving issues related to the Project Agreement. There was not sufficient information during the time periods referenced in the note to make definitive recommendations to the minister or his staff regarding the safety and durability of the girders. Minister’s Office (MO) staff were first briefed on the safety and durability issues regarding girders on the Herb Gray Parkway on June 14, 2013 and the minister was briefed on June 19, 2013.”