TORONTO -- Ontario drivers are being promised better maintained highways this winter after the government hit a company contracted to clear roads with $900,000 in fines.

Carillion Canada was fined $500,000 for not clearing the Queen Elizabeth way during a snow and ice storm last November, and $400,000 for not doing a proper job on the QEW between Burlington and Mississauga in another storm last December.

Carillion has eight contracts with the province -- worth $87 million a year -- to maintain highways around Chatham, London, Peel and Halton regions, Simcoe, Huntsville, Thunder Bay, Bancroft and the Kingston area.

The company did not respond to requests for comment on the fines, but the government insisted highways would be in better shape after storms this winter.

"I have met many times with our area maintenance contractors and I am confident that working together, Ontarians will see the improvements on our roads that they deserve," Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said Tuesday.

The Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats said the Liberal government lowered road maintenance standards in 2009 in an attempt to reduce costs, resulting in dangerous driving conditions during and after winter storms.

Ontario's auditor general reported the government saved money on winter road maintenance over the last five years, but at a cost that included greater delays in clearing highways of snow or ice.

"We can't help but think the negative consequences of the changes made five years ago to performance-based contracts might have been foreseeable and avoidable," auditor general Bonnie Lysyk said in a special report issued in April.

Prior to the contract changes in 2009, Ontario's most travelled highways were cleared about 2.1 hours after a storm, but the auditor said that increased to an average of 4.7 hours by 2013-14.

Del Duca said the government would buy more road clearing equipment, "especially in rural and congested urban areas," require the use of more anti-icing liquids before storms, and post live camera images with time-stamped road condition information.

"We will continue to invest in additional equipment, strengthen our oversight and enhance the delivery of winter highway maintenance operations to make driving conditions better in Ontario's challenging winter conditions," he said.