Province Calls Snowy Driving a Breach of Contract

When does snowfall collide with breach of contract law?

It seems to happen every year. At that first, dreaded snowfall of the year in the GTA, it seems like everyone has taken leave of their good sense when it comes to driving and no one seems to remember how to navigate those snowy, slippery roads.

This year, the first real snowfall came midweek in November, a mere five centimetres or so at a temperature of – 5 C.  Peanuts, right? Canadians have certainly dealt with worse, but many motorists were unpleasantly surprised on their commute with traffic in some cases ground to a standstill. On the QEW, OPP officers took the unusual step of calling in for salt trucks because the road surface was so icy and treacherous.

But none came.

According to media reports, many sections of the highway between Hamilton and Burlington were not salted, sanded or plowed and traffic became a snarly nightmare. Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca is calling the situation a breach of contract.


Privatization of snow removal services on provincial highways has meant that the government – and motorists – are counting on private contractors to fulfill their end of the bargain. The responsibilities of the contractors are outlined in a document called The Highway Maintenance Guidelines. It requires that:

  • Salting of the road surface must begin within 30 minutes after a storm begins.
  • Plowing must begin after two centimetres of snow has fallen.
  • Pavement on all major highways must be bare within eight hours after a storm begins.

The province is currently investigating what happened and expects to issues a notice of non-compliance to the contractor. Failure to uphold the terms of the contract can results in penalties of $5,000 per vehicle for the contractor in question.

Contractual Terms

As the Minister remarked in a news story, it is possible that the contractor in question simply did not have enough road salt to do the job. But where does that leave the government as contractor – and area motorists? The incident raises a number of key issues for anyone involved in a contractual arrangement, whether it’s an employment contract or as in this case, a service contract.

  • The duties/responsibilities/obligations of each party should be well defined.
  • Non-compliance measures (including a termination clause) should also be outlined and well defined.

But – if you’re the person taking on such a contract, another, perhaps even more salient issue, comes to the fore:

  • Is it physically possible to fulfill the terms of the contract? Do you have the necessary supplies/support/skills/time to complete it exactly as outlined?

Your Employment or Service Contract

The best time to consider the terms of your contractual agreement is before you sign on the dotted line. Our experienced team of breach of contract lawyers can advise you on what clauses and elements are or should be included and their implications. You need a full understanding of what you’re getting into when you sign a contractual agreement; the terms should be reasonable and doable for both parties.

If you’ve already begun to serve out a contractual arrangement and have found yourself in trouble one way or another, we can help.

You’ll need the help of experienced breach of contract lawyers.  If you think your rights under a contractual agreement are being disregarded contact Petrillo Law today or call us (905) 949-9433 for a free consultation with an experienced contract lawyer.  We look forward to hearing from you.

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