TORONTO, Ont. — Mistake. Unsafe. Incredulous. Those were some of the words used to describe Ontario’s speed limiter legislation during public hearings today at Queen’s Park.
However, the well-oiled PR machine led by the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) was also on-hand to present some compelling arguments of its own as the two sides sparred all day over Bill 41, which would mechanically limit truck speeds in Ontario to 105 km/h. Their audience was the Standing Committee on Justice Policy, consisting of MPPs from the governing Liberals as well as Opposition parties.
Representing the pro-speed limiter crowd were: the OTA; Canadian Trucking Alliance; Brian Taylor of Liberty Linehaul; the Ontario Safety League; the Insurance Bureau of Canada; the American Trucking Associations; and Jeff Bryan of Jeff Bryan Transport. They insisted speed limiters would improve road safety and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Countering, from the anti-speed limiter corner, were: the Owner/Operators’ Independent Drivers’ Association (OOIDA); the Owner-Operators’ Business Association of Canada (OBAC); driver Dorothy Sanderson; the Canadian Owner/Operators’ Co-operative; and Dr. Barry Prentice of the University of Manitoba, I.H. Asper School of Business.
They argued that safety may in fact be compromised by the legislation, that the emissions reductions are debatable and that trade with the US could be impeded by the bill.
At the end of the day, the committee agreed to extend the public comment period from its original deadline of end-of-day today, to June 10 at 5 p.m. The extension came after the committee was chastised about the short notice provided for public input. Notice of the hearing was posted by the Legislature on Monday morning and those wishing to present had only until noon that same day to make a request. Written submissions were only to be accepted until 5 p.m today.
OBAC executive director Joanne Ritchie, who was scheduled to appear in person, instead called from the 10 Acre Truck Stop in Belleville, Ont. where she pulled over to rest on her way to Toronto after pulling an all-nighter to work on her presentation. She condemned the committee for providing such short notice. Her point was well-received.
Now, further comments can be submitted right up until June 10, via e-mail to clerk Susan Sourial at firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax at 416-325-3505.
The arguments in favour of speed limiters seemed to carry the momentum early in the day. OTA’s Bradley said “As an industry that shares its workplace with the public, we have the added responsibility to do the right thing.”
His group was lauded by safety groups and the ATA. Dave Osiecki, vice-president, safety, security and operations, said “In general, ATA supports Bill 41 as written” and he added “we do not believe Bill 41 would create significant impediments to cross-border trade.” He said he hopes the ATA will succeed in implementing its own, slightly different, speed limiter policy and that the two laws can be harmonized at a later date. At one point, a Liberal MPP said he was having trouble finding any reason not to support the legislation.
But as the day wore on, committee members from Opposition parties seemed befuddled by the vastly different opinions they were hearing on the issue – especially MPP Frank Klees, Caucus Chair for the Official Opposition and critic for the Ministry of Transportation.
He said he was “puzzled how people in the same industry can be arguing opposite sides of the equation.”
“What really is underlying this debate?” he asked. “Why do we have people in this industry that have come to this committee and said ‘Don’t do this. It’s dangerous?'”
It was a point he returned to as the hearing wrapped up, noting he was “still searching” for the core issue of the debate. “I’m missing something here,” he said, also suggesting he was uncomfortable supporting the legislation without first soliciting further feedback.
NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo agreed, saying “I think we need more time to (allow stakeholders to) make submissions.”
The deadline for amendments to be made to the legislation is June 11. Discussions today suggested that if the legislation proceeds, the most likely amendments will include expanding the legislation to cover motor coaches and increasing the fine for offenders from the currently discussed $250.
For more coverage from the hearings, including commentary, check out editor James Menzies’ blog at trucknews.com. The blogs are located on the right-hand side of the home page (you may need to scroll down). Also see the July issues of Truck News and Truck West.
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