September 25, 2023

The Need for Contractor Accountability

All of us feel inconvenienced by construction regardless of how we get around; especially when projects keep getting delayed as what happened with the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Per Luis Ledesma from the Cycling in Toronto Facebook group, Sanscon Construction was responsible for having several projects delivered behind schedule such as the College Street Upgrades and the King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles (KQQR) Intersection. Another of their projects – Military Trail Road Reconstruction – was discussed at last week’s Infrastructure & Environment Committee (IEC) meeting. I will review these Sanscon projects and stress the need to hold contractors accountable when delivering projects that support climate action such as public transit and cycling.

College Street Upgrades

Sanscon was first brought up when I shared this Twitter thread from @lizzhatesme on how work on the College Street upgrades had been stalled last month.

Per the contract awarded on July 7, 2022, Sanscon had bid $12.9 million for this project consisting of replacing streetcar tracks and upgrading bike lanes to raised cycle tracks while Midome had bid $15.4 million. The bid had called for project completion by December 31, 2022, but only the streetcar track replacement was finished by December per Construction Update #2.

Work on the raised cycle tracks restarted on March 6 and had a revised target completion date of May 2023 per the third construction update. Per the College Street Upgrades project website, “unforeseen ground conditions and underground utility conflicts” lead to further delays with a revised timeline of late September 2023. When I last biked on College, the Manning to Bathurst stretch was done, but there was still a lot to do between Bathurst and Spadina which makes even that deadline unrealistic.

To make matters worse, the barriers from Spadina to St. George were removed recently. WTF?

KQQR Intersection

The contract for this west end intersection was awarded on June 24, 2020 which saw four companies submit bids and Sanscon’s being $24.6 million compared to $32.2 million for CRCE Construction. The first construction notice from September 8, 2020 called for August 2022 completion and was spread over several phases. The final phase on Roncesvalles Avenue ended up being done in Spring 2023 with streetcars resuming service as of May 7, 2023.

KQQR construction in April 2021

However, some in the Roncy/Parkdale Friendly Neighbours group complained about the streetcar platforms being abandoned as of June 18, 2023 and in a state of disrepair. At the time the complaints were raised, the repairs were supposed to be done by mid-August.

An unfinished streetcar platform on Roncesvalles in June 2023 (via April B in Roncy/Parkdale Friendly Neighbours)

Military Trail Road Reconstruction

On June 14, 2023, Councillor Paul Ainslie submitted an administrative inquiry regarding the Military Trail road reconstruction which got referred to the September 20, 2023 IEC meeting. This project – which saw four bids submitted and Sanscon’s being for $5.0 million – was supposed to have been done by Spring or Summer 2022 while Military Trail from Ellesmere to Highcastle was closed since September 1, 2021.

Trail construction at Ellesmere and Military Trail adjacent to the road closure

The administrative inquiry revealed several issues with the project in addition to the expected topography challenges of crossing the ravine. Sanscon claimed there were some delays caused by Enbridge over the gas mains which couldn’t be validated by the City, while Sanscon refused to provide a full as-built survey regarding the bridge as requested by the City in September 2022. The City resorted to hiring a consultant (RVA) to do this work which found Sanscon’s analysis was inaccurate and the grade wasn’t compliant with the design. Other deficiencies involving curb and sidewalk elevations, bridge approaches, and drainage were revealed – amounting to a need for a full redo – while the City sent a deficiency letter to the contractor in May 2023. The City mentioned the project may end up being delayed to 2024 and could even require re-tendering.

The IEC passed two motions proposed by Councillor Ainslie. The first is to request city staff with Engineering & Construction Services and the Chief Procurement Officer to report back on how contracts are evaluated and how their performance could be factored in for future contracts. The second is for them to report back on the evaluation of the contract management model by the first quarter of 2024.

Since the meeting, a new construction notice was issued saying a solution was found and the contractor would resume work this week which should take eight weeks. However, some final work may take place in Spring 2024.

Other Sanscon Projects

There were two other projects which Sanscon won bids for this year which were for Peel-Gladstone (at $5.8 million) and Broadview Avenue (at $5.8 million). The Peel-Gladstone bid stated the project was supposed to be done by September 8, 2023 while the latest construction notice indicated the project would start in August and be completed in November. The Broadview construction notice also mentioned a November 2023 completion date, while work at the Broadview-Danforth intersection appeared to be ahead of schedule. A close eye will be needed for both projects to see if they face further delays.

Construction Resources

When I asked Matt Elliott of City Hall Watcher about how to get information on construction bids, he pointed to the Competitive Contracts open data set and the Online Call Document System. Unfortunately, the open data set is an XML file which didn’t show cleanly in Excel, while the Online Call Document System is outdated and doesn’t let you search information.

I found the best way to identify which projects a contractor has won (or at least bid on) is to use the Advanced Search function in TMMIS and focus on the Bid Award Panel committee. You have to click on each link to read the contract decision, but it is thorough including listing all bids submitted, the scope of the contract, and the completion deadline.

The City has a list of suspended or disqualified suppliers which show five temporary and two permanent suspensions. The permanent suspensions were for IPAC Paving Inc. and its affiliate Pave-1 Construction Ltd which stemmed from a TTC fraud investigation between a TTC employee and Sebastian Corbo. Corbo had billed the TTC $199,000 for work valued at $54,000, while both parties had conditional sentences and restitution orders of $30,000 each to the TTC.


While this post focused on one firm, this should only serve as a starting point in demanding contractor accountability for construction delays. There is a need to find out how other contractors compare in terms of delays and deficiencies. The motions passed at IEC are a step in the right direction in terms of evaluating contractor performance, but they need to be backed up with fines against contractors for delays within their control which escalate over time. For consistent poor performance, temporary suspensions should be considered while permanent ones will likely focus on matters fraudulent or criminal in nature.

Pursuing a deeper investigation of this kind will require the work of seasoned data gurus, investigative reporters, and academic researchers. However, I see construction contractors as the next accountability front for road safety advocates after having looked at the role of municipal budgets and staff capacity. Ensuring the City of Toronto follows through on transit and cycling projects requires not just political will, but also looking at the bottlenecks such as budgeting, staffing, city processes, and now construction.

UPDATE 2023/10/05: You can read my follow up piece on Sanscon - including a site check of Chesswood - here.

1 comment:

  1. Speed up construction projects. Lol.