TORONTO, Ont. — When Ontario Transport Minister Brad Clark stepped to the microphone to open the Ontario Trucking Association’s convention, the mood of his speech ran the full ambit of emotion.
“I blessed to have this opportunity to speak to a live audience,” he said before sending the entire room into stitches by adding, “usually I speak at Queen’s Park and sometimes you’re just not sure.”
He underscored the emphasis he and the rest of the Harris Tories have placed on truck safety and alluded to the tremendous partnership that exists between his department and the fleet group — as well as the shared responsibility that exists in needing to further this cause.
“Ontario’s trucks have never been safer,” he boasted. “We’ve gone from 215 wheel separations in 1997 to just 86 in 2000; the out of service rate was at 22.4 per cent for two years running; and the number of collisions involving trucks went from 26.5 per cent down to 17 per cent.”
Clark stressed the importance of trucking and the need for a free flow of goods across the border, especially since Sept. 11.
“If you can’t do your job, our entire economy suffers,” said the minister. One way to ensure this is possible, he added, is to work towards a North American perimeter border strategy.
“This is not about sovereignty, it’s about economics,” he explained. “Ontario can either be on the inside of the perimeter or the outside. We’re going to do our best to see that it is on the inside.”
The European Union will apparently serve as a blueprint for the future of North America.
“We’ll adapt their best practices,” added Clark.
As well, he promised Ontario — in conjunction with New York and the federal governments of both the U.S. and Canada — will work to increase capacity at the Windsor-Detroit border crossing.
Clark also took some time to discuss his department’s recently announced so-called Super Build activities slated for the Golden Horseshoe area over the next decade and stressed, “So much more could be done if our friends in Ottawa would live up to their commitments.”
One of the key themes was the idea of public-private partnerships, which in the case of new highway construction is often just another way of saying “toll roads.”
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