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Thursday, January 12, 2017

January 12, 2017

 

For Immediate Release

 

Stand-in Transportation Minister Not Truthful About Snowclearing Cuts

 

Barry Petten, Transportation Critic for the Official Opposition, says, "The ‎stand-in Minister of Transportation, Eddie Joyce, is not being truthful about Liberal cuts to snowclearing and the serious impact those cuts are having on the people of the province."

 

Petten said, ‎"The Minister is misleading when he has argued there are no changes in snowclearing operations this year compared to last year. The Minister knows that his government cut $1.9 million from the 24-hour snowclearing budget, changing the overnight snowclearing operations that had been keeping our highways in safe condition for driving. That budget cut - supported by every single member of the Liberal caucus in the House of Assembly - has had a severe impact on highway snowclearing this winter, putting people's lives in jeopardy. Equipment is not on the road when it is needed, but is being called in long after it is needed, leaving many drivers to brave the highways when they're not fit to drive."

 

The Minister stated on January 4 (VOCM) that "snowclearing operations [are] working as they should" and issues raised are being blown out of proportion. People are rightfully outraged about this comment when Liberal reductions to 24 hour snowclearing has led to unsafe road conditions on numerous occasions.”

 

‎The Minister stated on January 10 (CBC) that snow plows will be put in operation when there is 6 cm of snow in the forecast. However, officials of the Transportation and Works department have said the protocol actually indicates the forecast must call for more than 10 cm of snow. The department's media relations manager issued information that the protocol limits snowclearing operations to "high traffic routes when the forecast calls for more than 10 cm of snow, winds at 50 km/h, or freezing rain‎.‎" Have the triggers to get equipment on the roads changed?

 

Petten said, "The Minister has described call-back protocols that are not working, and are leaving some of our busiest roads in poor condition while ice builds. The Minister has said there are no problems with getting snowclearing equipment on the road when required, and all 'available' equipment is on the road when it is needed. That is not true. Availability reports show that, at times, 50 per cent or more of equipment available for use is actually sidelined with mechanical troubles. The Minister should proactively release equipment reports immediately.”

 

"The Minister has dismissed a shortage of mechanics as a significant issue, saying there are only 'four or five' mechanic positions unfilled province-wide. But reports in the media indicate there are that many vacancies in one depot alone, with others elsewhere; and mechanic positions have been posted for 6-8 months without interviews, leaving positions unfilled. The department doesn't have the staff to fix the equipment, which means the equipment is not ready when it is needed. The equipment is off the road at times when it would have been on the road in previous years. Drivers see the difference, and that's why people are so outraged at the Minister's denials that anything has changed."

 

Petten said, "The Minister has said everything is under control and the government is doing what it needs to be doing to ensure the safety of motorists. That is obviously untrue. This year's snowclearing efforts are markedly different from those of past years, and drivers do not feel safe or secure while traveling over unplowed highways. They believe the government's $1.9 million cutback has placed them at a significantly greater risk, and they are calling for the 24-hour snowclearing budget to be reinstated before a tragedy occurs.”

 

"Before the Liberal government can fix the problem they've created, they need to stop denying that a problem exists. Instead of telling people they don't know what they're talking about, they need to start listening to what people are saying, because people are very concerned about the deplorable state of our highways this winter," said Petten.

 

Petten referred to statements that Minister Joyce made on December 5, 2011 while in Opposition about snowclearing on secondary highways. ‎"Lives are being put in danger because of government's policy," Joyce said. He called on the government "to return to a policy where depot supervisors have the authority to determine highway conditions and react accordingly, regardless of the time of day." He said surely "we can find the additional funds to make our highways safe for the people of this province." Petten said the Minister should remember his own words, now that the responsibility rests on his shoulders. It’s time for the Liberals to reverse their 24-hour snowclearing cuts.

 

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Media Contact:

 

Heather MacLean

 

Director of Operations and Communications

 

Office of the Official Opposition

 

(709) 729 6105

 

heathermaclean@gov.nl.ca

 

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