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New poll shows Ontarians fed up with wasted infrastructure dollars

0 330 Infrastructure

by Angela Gismondi

A new poll states Ontarians are dissatisfied with elected officials and government policies that waste public infrastructure dollars.
New poll shows Ontarians fed up with wasted infrastructure dollars

The poll was conducted by Forum Research and commissioned by the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA).

According to one poll question, taxpayers are paying 20 to 30 per cent more than they should for infrastructure because of an Ontario government policy that restricts competition on projects.

Essentially, the PCA explained, certain municipalities and public bodies are considered construction employers and can only tender construction work to select unions.

This is occurring in Toronto, Hamilton, Sault Ste. Marie and the Region of Waterloo as well as with public bodies such as Ontario Power Generation, Hydro One and the Toronto District School Board, PCA stated.

Of those polled, 90 per cent said elected officials should be doing more to make sure taxpayers are getting the best possible value for their dollars.

"Ontarians are saying they're frustrated with politicians and policies that waste money and are not in the public's best interest," said Karen Renkema, senior manager, public affairs for PCA.

"These are public taxpayer dollars and all qualified companies should be able to compete on these projects,"

Karen Renkema
PCA

"The findings are loud and clear that taxpayers would like their municipal politicians to stand up for them instead of staying quiet on this policy and they want this to be an issue at the next provincial election."

When asked their opinion on whether the Ontario government should change its policy, "saving taxpayers over $280 million each year for things like community centres and public transit expansion," 86 per cent of those surveyed responded the Ontario government should allow more companies to bid on construction work.

Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research, explained the poll, which was conducted from June 15 to 17, is a representative sample of 1,094 Ontarians 18 years of age or older. The poll was done using an Interactive Voice Response survey methodology over the telephone.

"They're called and they get an automated recording with the questions," said Bozinoff. "A couple communities were over sampled so they could do some drill downs on those communities where this issue is of particular interest, but when we did the provincial total numbers, the results were put back in their proper proportion."

The results are plus or minus 3.1 per cent, accurate 19 times out of 20, he added.

"It does show a lot of interest in this topic," said Bozinoff. "Ninety per cent are saying elected officials should be doing more. We seldom get 90 per cent agreeing on anything in public opinion so that's a really big number."

The poll also asked if participants agree or disagree that "greater fairness for taxpayers and better value for infrastructure investments should be a priority for candidates in the next provincial election." While 57 per cent of those polled strongly agreed, 27 per cent somewhat agreed with that statement.

Another poll question states many local construction companies and their workers cannot work on local infrastructure projects even though they are highly qualified because of construction employer designation. When asked how fair this is, just over 58 per cent responded "not at all fair" and just over 22 per cent said it is "somewhat unfair." The breakdown by region on the question is: Waterloo Region, 86 per cent; Sault Ste. Marie, 80 per cent; Toronto, 77 per cent; and Hamilton, 73 per cent.

Renkema said it's not fair that only a small monopoly of contractors and their affiliated unions are allowed to compete on municipal projects.

"These are public taxpayer dollars and all qualified companies should be able to compete on these projects," Renkema stated. "They shouldn't be giving a monopoly to a small select group of companies just because their workers have chosen to certify with one union or another."

It's also about fairness to the workers and how being part of a union or not can affect their ability to work on projects in their own communities where they pay tax dollars, she said.

"They live in these local communities, they pay taxes in their own local communities but they can't actually work on their own projects," Renkema stated. "I think it's very clear that right across Ontario, they say that is not fair. Why are we squandering tax dollars on construction projects in these communities across Ontario when we are all trying to find innovative solutions to make these dollars go further so we can repair and continually invest in our infrastructure?"

PCA has been sharing the report with a number of municipal and provincial politicians.

"We'll continue to press forward on this issue as we move forward into campaign season both municipally and provincially to ensure that our elected officials or elected-officials-to-be understand that there is a better way and there is a more fair way for their constituents," said Renkema.

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