A dozen public-sector construction projects across Ontario – including hospitals, schools and university buildings – are either months behind schedule or in limbo as one of the province’s largest construction companies struggles to pay its subcontractors and complete jobs.
Since the start of 2018, Bondfield Construction Company Ltd., a family-owned firm based in Vaughan, north of Toronto, has been terminated as the general contractor on three public-sector projects, and several others are mired in delays. Frustrated subcontractors have had to take extraordinary steps to get paid on Bondfield projects – in some cases striking agreements to receive payment directly from the public-sector institutions or turning to Bondfield’s insurer for compensation.
The result has been a flurry of lawsuits, liens and a growing list of aggrieved public institutions. One of the company’s major hospital projects, doubling the size of the emergency department and adding more inpatient beds at Cambridge Memorial Hospital in Southwestern Ontario, is 22 months behind schedule.
Bondfield declined to respond to questions about specific projects, but in a statement the company said: “Bondfield is extremely proud of its successful track record on numerous major projects in Ontario. Project delays are often an unfortunate but unavoidable part of large construction projects, and Bondfield’s record in that regard is no different than any major contractor.”
All three hospital contracts were awarded using what Infrastructure Ontario calls its Alternative Financing and Procurement, or AFP, system. The AFP model requires builders to finance projects using private lenders, and construction companies are only paid with public dollars upon completion of the job. The system, the Infrastructure Ontario website says, “protects taxpayers from cost overruns by transferring project risks to the party with the expertise, experience and ability to handle that risk best.”
Several of Bondfield’s traditional, non-AFP public-sector projects – which don’t involve private-sector financing – have stalled or failed to get off the ground. In March, the City of Brampton, west of Toronto, terminated Bondfield as the builder of its $33.5-million Gore Meadows Community Centre and Library even though the project was close to completion.
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