Gary Moore, Hamilton’s previous engineering director gave the most honest assessment of what truly goes on in the engineering departments of many municipalities in Ontario. In an interview with the Hamilton Spectator (the interview date was not disclosed) a request was made for the report of Golder Associates which contained the road surface data on the Red Hill Valley Parkway in Hamilton. Mr. Moore was quoted by the Spectator: ” No one ever releases (that type of) information…because it’s the first thing anybody (would use in a) lawsuit”.
Mr. Moore’s understanding that no one releases that type of information demonstrates the true issue at hand. That many road safety problems are kept from the public’s knowledge. And the reason for that secrecy is to protect a municipality from a lawsuit. Does this comment include instances where there is a genuine risk to the public’s safety and the municipality’s representative knows that someone might be killed? Is it the practice to cover up those problems because the protection of the municipality from a lawsuit is more important than the protection of human lives? Is this not a circumventing of the courts’ role to determine which lawsuits hold merit? When staff of engineering departments withhold evidence a correction of a problem cannot occur and, just as importantly, persons who have suffered due to the existence of that problem cannot obtain the justice that they deserve.
Hamilton’s municipal politicians have claimed that they knew nothing with respect to the hiding of the Golder report. That may be so, in this instance, and further investigation may clarify that. But in general there are many instances where municipal politicians meet with engineering and risk management representatives behind closed doors and no one knows what conversations are had. Such a system is ripe for misuse as both entities have a stake in protecting the corporation that either employs them or that they represent. The public is not able to see when unethical decisions are made and who has been responsible for those unethical acts. Checks and balances can be put in place which could avoid the hiding of genuine safety issues in the future. However this requires an understanding of the harm that presently exists and a willingness to find an unbiased solution that benefits society as a whole.
It has been reported that Mr. Gord McGuire, the City’s new Director of Engineering, was the one who uncovered the Golder report. If this holds true then Mr. McGuire must be commended for his actions. This is exactly how a person with integrity ought to function. However there are repercussions for such actions and Mr. McGuire could easily find himself unpopular and unwanted when pursuing his career in Hamilton and elsewhere. Those who understand the value of employing persons of Mr. McGuire’s calibre ought to make sure that his career does not suffer for his righteous act.