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MTO cover-up scheme blasted by Ont. auditor

TORONTO, Ont. - Despite statistics claiming it has the safest highways in Canada, Ontario's Provincial Auditor charges the Ministry of Transportation is endangering lives with its shoddy procedures.In...


TORONTO, Ont. – Despite statistics claiming it has the safest highways in Canada, Ontario’s Provincial Auditor charges the Ministry of Transportation is endangering lives with its shoddy procedures.

In a scathing indictment of the provincial Conservative government, Erik Peters, the province’s auditor says the MTO has been permitting 30,000 unfit motorists on the roads and he adds it deliberately tried to hide such information from the public. The ministry has since reported 22,000 of these cases have been reviewed and processed, while the rest of the backlog is expected to be eliminated by spring 2002.

Despite other concerns over food producers, Peters’ recent report on government operations placed its harshest criticisms on the MTO, which actively hindered his audit by deleting parts of documents and restricting access to ministerial staff.

“Criminal is a legal term, it was certainly in contravention of the Audit Act – that’s a civil Act,” he says, adding most of the information the ministry attempted to conceal was eventually uncovered.

“We found that road-user safety was impaired because 30,000 drivers who were reported – as far back as 1997 – to have medical conditions that could make it dangerous for them to operate vehicles were still allowed to drive,” adds Peters, in referring to motorists who are legally blind, deaf, seizure-prone, or suffer from heart conditions. Hundreds of convicted drunk drivers were given their licences back because of administrative snafus.

“I think you have to be a careful driver. Watch the other guy. There are concerns, that’s why we are raising them.”

As well, the auditor blasted the ministry for outsourcing driver testing earlier this year after spending $10.3 million on 280 additional staff and wasting $101 million on a computer system to support the expanded department.

Waiting lists for tests are still too long and the ministry has not collected funds from 39,000 NSF (not sufficient funds) cheques for vehicle registration fees and municipal parking fines, he adds.

David Turnbull, Minister of Transportation during the troubled audit period, is now Solicitor-General, having been replaced by Brad Clark, who Peters insists is doing a better job than his much-maligned predecessor.

“I believe that the Provincial Auditor serves a valuable role for the province of Ontario and for the taxpayers,” Clark says. As well, he insists the ministry has strengthened intervention programs on all fronts.


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