On-Site Magazine

Ontario pulls plug on new Halton courthouse at tail end of procurement

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May 12, 2020 by On-Site Staff

Instead of revealing a winning bidder for a major new courthouse in Oakville, Ont., the province is cancelling the project.

Attorney General Doug Downey announced the decision to pull the plug on the Halton Region Consolidated Courthouse May 8. For the move, he cited COVID-19 and a “broad consensus” about altering the way justice is meted out post-pandemic.

“To keep people safe and uphold the administration of justice during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Ontario government and our justice partners established new and innovative ways of delivering justice remotely and online,” Downey said in a statement. “Experience gained during COVID-19 underscores the urgent need to invest in technology, modernize processes and expand access to justice across the province.”

Construction teams bidding on the project had expected a contract to be awarded this spring after more than two years of procurement. With costs estimated at several hundred million of dollars, the cancellation will be a blow to local builders.

The Hamilton-Brantford Building and Construction Trades Council said it is disappointed with the decision. The courthouse is the second major infrastructure job cancelled in the area in the past six months — with the province also calling off the Hamilton light rail transit project in the eleventh hour last December.

“If the region is losing almost $1.5 billion in direct public infrastructure investments, there is a real fear that the local economy will fall into further recession in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Mark Ellerker, business manager and financial secretary-treasurer for the HBBT Council.

“It also means that the Ontario Government is sending a mixed message about restarting the local economy for workers and local businesses after the COVID-19 outbreak,” Ellerker said in a statement.

Construction on the courthouse was expected to start this June after the province settled on a winning bidder.

Infrastructure Ontario had shortlisted the EllisDon Infrastructure Justice, Escarpment Justice Alliance and Plenary PCL Justice consortia for the design, build, finance, maintain contract last year.

In place of the construction project, Downey said Ontario will shift the funding toward new technology designed to allow more court services to function online.

“This innovative new approach will allow Ontario to take concrete action for the first time in recent memory to support a truly reimagined justice system,” he said. “It will move Ontario’s justice system forward by decades and allow it to emerge from this public health crisis more resilient and better positioned to face future challenges.”

The province will also be looking at address infrastructure needs at existing courthouses in Milton and Burlington, though it has not detailed what those renovation projects may entail.

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