August 14, 2008

Funds used to create jobs in London instead of Windsor

Windsor, On- NDP Transport, Border, and Automotive Critic Brian Masse (Windsor West) joined by local surveyors demanded local contracting requirements for all border infrastructure spending. “It is an outrage that border infrastructure funds are used without regard to the taxpayers to hire out of town firms instead of more cost effective and duly qualified local companies,” Masse declared.

The provincial Ministry of Transportation hired a London surveying firm on retainer for work along the route to the next border crossing. The methodology for determining the winning bid minimized the value assigned to the cost of the contract, which was restricted to only 10 percent weighting in the selection process. The Windsor firm, Verhaegan Stubberfield Hartley Brewer Bezaire (VSHBB), which has carried out similar functions for the tunnel plaza expansion and the Walker and Howard Road grade separations, lost the contract even though they are a registered contractor and equally qualified to carry out land survey services in Ontario. Efforts by the local company to obtain fairness from the provincial government over the past two years have been brushed aside by the Liberal Minister of Transport, Jim Bradley.

“If we or any local surveyors cannot get these contracts, where local knowledge and resources lowers the cost to the taxpayer, then local design firms, suppliers, and construction companies are going to be shut out of the largest infrastructure project in an area with significant unemployment,” stated Roy Simone of VSHBB. “We are the canary in the coal mine, so to speak.”

Windsor’s unemployment rate is 33 % higher than London’s, which is below the provincial average.

“Provincial and Federal cabinet ministers have bragged about this project creating 10,000 to 15,000 jobs. The only problem with this is that they are going to be in London, Toronto and who knows where else. A local contracting mandate requires that a certain percentage of the infrastructure spending is allocated in the area where the project takes place. This ensures fairness, transparency and accountability,” Masse stated. “Residents and businesses of this area are going to have their lives disrupted for the next several years while the country gets a new border crossing in the most significant trade corridor. It is time the provincial and federal governments comply with world wide best practices and establish a local mandate so that workers who live here will build the infrastructure in their city.”