21 December 2010

Potholes and Compensation

If you want to spend a few minutes in that altered state of consciousness called being a cabinet minister, take a listen to an interview transportation minister Tom Hedderson did back in October with CBC Radio’s West Coast Morning Show.

The interview is about damage claims people are filing after using sections of the Trans-Labrador Highway.  Seems that they’ve been hitting potholes and are looking to have repairs paid for by the provincial government due to supposed inadequate maintenance and signage.

In the course of the interview, Hedderson acknowledges that increased traffic has caused increased wear and tear on the gravel road – yes it is a highway that has no pavement – but he insists that his department is doing everything it can to keep the road up to snuff.  He also acknowledges that the road surface will deteriorate after a heavy rain.

So yes, there have been claims for damages but the department won’t be paying anything because – by its own decision – everything they are doing is adequate.

To sum up: 

1.  There are potholes.

2.  There is no compensation.

There is no compensation because the same people responsible for maintaining the road are the same people who make the decision about whether or not they will pay. Hedderson just rubber stamps the decision by officials.

There’s even a Pythonesque moment right at the start where the interviewer asks Hedderson if they have in fact paid any claims to anyone at all.  No, says Hedderson.  Cheese vendor Michael Palin couldn’t have done any better.

Later on, Bernice Hillier asks Hedderson about “legitimate” claims since, apparently Hedderson had said earlier in the year the department would pay for legitimate complaints. “Legitimate” claims get paid, it seems.

Hedderson’s definition of a “legitimate” claim is basically one they’ve paid.

And since they haven’t paid any claims… draw your own conclusion.

That interview aired on October 28.

On October 26, Hedderson issued a news release announcing changes to the Labrador coastal boat service because of improvements in the road network.

"Now that there is a highway link connecting the communities currently served by this run, the time has come to discontinue the passenger and freight service between Lewisporte, Cartwright and Happy Valley-Goose Bay," said the Honourable Tom Hedderson, Minister of Transportation and Works. "This is a natural step in light of the approximately $275 million investment in Phases II and III of the TLH and is consistent with the delivery and maintenance of transportation infrastructure and services in other communities that are accessible by road.”

Wonderful stuff.  People can drive around now on this highway.  In fact, more people are using it and will use it in the future.

But they shouldn’t expect that government will compensate them for damage resulting from using the roads.

That is, unless they use “more legal type means”.

That would be Hedderson-speak for getting a lawyer and filing a damage suit in Provincial Court. Given the laughable way Hedderson handles complaints to his office, that might be a good idea.  Hire a lawyer who will fight bureaucrats and their self-serving, circular logic.

Anyone ever heard of a lawyer like that?

- srbp -