Ford has to fix Metrolinx’s crosstown mess or take the blame

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At this point, there is no doubt that the Eglinton-Crosstown project is off the rails: work has stopped and a lawsuit has been filed. For example, when a relationship fails, there is a lot of blame.

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While the Ford government simply wants to blame Crosslinx Transit Solutions, the consortium contracted to build the project, they must shoulder much of the responsibility themselves. Yes, we all know this project started under the Liberal government more than a decade ago, but the PC Party has ruled Ontario for five years – they’re carrying it now.

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The money has to stop somewhere, and that’s where it stops with Prime Minister Doug Ford and his Secretary of Transportation, Caroline Mulroney. Ultimately, they are the ones in charge here, as they are responsible for running Metrolinx, which is responsible for managing the project.

Crosslinx was tasked with designing and building the project and it is clear that there were issues with the original contract, the original design and the many changes made over time. It is still the task of Metrolinx to overcome all these problems and to deliver the project on a reasonable time frame and reasonably timely.

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One of the main reasons Metrolinx was founded – and then given responsibility for projects ranging from the expansion of the GO Train to TTC improvements like the Crosstown – was to avoid such problems. It’s obviously not working, or we have the wrong people running the store at Metrolinx.

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Let’s start with the man at the top, Phil Verster, the CEO, whose salary has increased dramatically since taking office in 2017 and who, according to multiple sources, is now considering another big raise despite delays and problems with major projects.

A little over two weeks ago, Verster detailed more than 260 deficiencies in the project that needed to be addressed, ranging from problematic concrete to rails that were too close together. Now he’s vowing to defend himself against another lawsuit from Crosstown.

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“Metrolinx will defend this latest legal challenge by CTS, as we have done several times before. CTS shall bear the costs for delays by CTS. Metrolinx is already withholding significant payments for poor performance,” Verster said in a statement.

It sounds like he’s defending taxpayers, and he might be, but those close to Crosslinx claim Verster is very aggressive and over-expressive — so much so that even regular bills aren’t paid . This includes claims for costs associated with maintaining the project during the COVID-19 crisis, including safety equipment required during the pandemic, which Metrolinx has not paid for.

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If these claims are true, it’s no wonder construction has stopped and a lawsuit has been filed. While these claims are untrue, or at best exaggerated, a major part of Verster’s job in leading the project is to ensure the work continues.

He clearly failed.

So does Mulroney as she is in charge of Verster and he has failed to keep that project on the back burner. Mulroney blamed those problems on the previous Liberal government on Tuesday morning in the legislature, a sad reaction five years after he led the team.

She requested from Crosslinx a viable timeline for the completion and handover of this project to the TTC, but did not receive it. Even Ford, which two weeks ago requested a schedule itself, got stuck.

The work on the Crosstown must be done; We don’t need any more delays. What we need is for Ford to take responsibility, get everyone around the table and settle the matter. That includes making sure taxpayers are protected, businesses are paid, the route is opened when it’s safe and the consortium gives the public some idea of ​​when that will be.

Enough games, let’s go. Ford has to fix Metrolinx’s crosstown mess or take the blame

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