LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
Wednesday 26 October 2005 Mercredi 26 octobre 2005
The House met at 1845.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
TRANSPORTATION STATUTE LAW
AMENDMENT ACT, 2005 /
LOI DE 2005 MODIFIANT DES LOIS
EN CE QUI CONCERNE LE TRANSPORT
Mr. Takhar moved third reading of the following bill:
Bill 169, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act and to amend and repeal various other statutes in respect of transportation-related matters / Projet de loi 169, Loi modifiant le Code de la route et modifiant et abrogeant diverses autres lois à l'égard de questions relatives au transport.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): Mr. Takhar.
Hon. Harinder S. Takhar (Minister of Transportation): I am pleased to lead the debate on this bill for third reading. I will be sharing my time with my very capable and energetic parliamentary assistant, the member from Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, Mr. Lalonde. I want to put on the record that it is a real delight and honour for me to work with my parliamentary assistant.
A safe and efficient transportation network is key to Ontario's prosperity and quality of life. Bill 169 contains wide-ranging legislation that, if passed, would make our roads safer. It would also make our transportation system more efficient by encouraging people to use public transit or car pools. Our government is committed to improving travel across the province. We are creating a transit culture where people choose to leave the car at home, and we are making progress to create that very culture.
Let me talk about safety first. Bill 169 would make our roads safer by cracking down on the worst speeders. Drivers who go 30 kilometres an hour over the speed limit on city streets are nearly six times more likely to kill or seriously injure someone. The risk is greater on our highways. Those who drive 50 kilometres an hour over the limit are nearly 10 times more likely to kill or seriously injure someone. You heard it right: 10 times more likely to kill or seriously injure someone.
This bill proposes to increase fines for those who drive 30 to 34 kilometres an hour over the limit. For example, someone travelling 30 kilometres over the posted limit would face a maximum fine of $210. That is up from the $135 that is in place right now. It proposes longer licence suspensions of up to one year for those convicted of repeatedly driving 50 kilometres an hour or more over the posted speed limit. It would double fines for speeding in construction zones when workers are present. For example, anyone caught driving more than 30 kilometres an hour over the posted limit in a construction zone would face a fine of $420. Drivers who ignore the stop/slow signs held by workers would face a fine of up to $500. Currently there is no fine for this.
In our cities and towns, drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians at crossovers, crosswalks and school crossings would face stiffer penalties too. The minimum fine would more than double, from $60 to $150. This last point is critical for the safety of pedestrians. Nearly half of all pedestrians killed are struck at marked crossings. Sadly, many of them are children or seniors. In Toronto, for example, as of this past weekend, 24 people have died simply trying to cross the street this year. That compares to 16 during the same time last year.
I want to extend my very sincere condolences and sympathy to former cabinet member David Tsubouchi, whose father, Thomas Tsubouchi, was killed this past weekend at a crosswalk -- the very circumstance we are trying to eliminate. We simply must do what we can to make our roads safer. That is why I strongly urge all honourable members to support Bill 169.
This bill has the support of municipalities; it has the support of police. Here are some samples of what has been said since I introduced the bill last February. Staff Sergeant Tom Carrique of the York Regional Police said: "Anything we can do to deal with speeding will make our roads safer." The Metroland papers said: "Peel Regional Police are lauding this bill." The Woodstock Sentinel-Review said it's "a step toward pedestrian safety." The Ottawa Citizen said it's the "right move."
Let me tell you about another priority for our government, and that is, easing congestion. One of the best ways to ensure an efficient transportation system is to encourage people to carpool or take public transit. I am proud that we will be the first provincial government to build high-occupancy vehicle lanes on Ontario highways. New lanes are being added to sections of Highways 403 and 404, and we are proposing to limit them to buses and cars with two or more people. Right now, many of the cars travelling on our busiest highways at the busiest times of the day carry only one person, and that is the driver. We need to make better use of our highway space and capacity. Bill 169 would allow HOV lanes to be designated and enforced.
Bill 169 would also allow buses and streetcars across the province to use devices that control stoplights. So-called "go boxes" would allow buses and streetcars to save time by making a green light last a little longer or by shortening a red light. What this does is take people from one place to another easier and quicker, and it saves time.
The bill would also allow police to ticket motorists who try to use bus bypass shoulders. As the name implies, bus bypass shoulders allow local transit vehicles to bypass traffic jams. HOV lanes, bus bypass shoulders and stoplight priority would give transit riders an advantage and make public transit a better choice.
Here is another way the bill, if passed, would ease congestion. The legislation would allow police to clear and reopen highways faster after a collision or spill. Our proposal would clarify removal powers and protect police and the province from liability. This provision also has support from police.
I would like to touch on a proposed amendment to Bill 169. Currently, the Highway Traffic Act prohibits anyone from operating a vehicle on a closed highway. Road service and emergency vehicles are exempt. We are proposing to add an exemption for volunteer firefighters responding to an emergency in their personal vehicles. Volunteers and firefighters who work for a professional fire service would be covered.
Finally, I would like to touch on one more important safety and consumer protection aspect of the bill: taxi scoopers. Unlicensed operators hang around airports and tourist destinations, waiting to take advantage of unsuspecting travelers. One of them tried it on me. Passengers can be hit with fares of $180 for a trip from an airport to the downtown area. They have been harassed and they have feared for their own safety. It's just not safe.
The bill takes into account the advice of officials at the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, municipal leaders and law enforcement agencies from a number of communities such as Ottawa, Niagara Falls and Peel. Let me read from a letter from the Regional Municipality of Niagara Police Services Board: "The board is extremely pleased to support your ... bill." That's what they wrote. "The unlicensed taxi issue is a huge problem in Niagara." That's what was said by the Niagara police.
If passed, Bill 169 would make it illegal to carry passengers for compensation without a proper licence or permit, and I want to make it very clear that this is an illegal activity that is being carried on. It would allow for charges against the driver, the owner of the vehicle and anyone who arranges the ride. Convictions would mean fines of up to $20,000. I want to make it very clear that we are not trying to change the existing municipal licensing regime. The proposed bill would target the few bad apples who have no licence at all and should not be operating in an area where they are not authorized to do so.
We want to make sure that when people arrive at an Ontario airport or travel to one of our cities, they get into a safe and licensed cab. Bill 169 would protect our visitors, our children, seniors and other pedestrians. It would protect drivers and passengers. It would make public transit a more convenient choice. It would ease congestion. And it would help keep our economy moving, our air clean and our families safe.
I want to urge honourable members on all sides of the House to give this legislation their enthusiastic support. As this bill is all about road user safety, I am sure that all members of this House care deeply about road user safely and putting a stop to illegal activities in this province.
M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell) : Monsieur le Président, comme l'a souligné mon honorable collègue le ministre Takhar, un réseau de transport sécuritaire et efficace est essentiel à notre prospérité et à une bonne qualité de vie pour tous les Ontariens et Ontariennes, et même les visiteurs voyageant sur nos routes en Ontario.
Yes, as stated by Honourable Minister Takhar, a safe and efficient transportation network is key to our prosperity and quality of life.
Je vais vous démontrer deux façons particulières que le projet de loi 169 pourrait réaliser nos objectifs, soit la sécurité et l'efficacité sur nos autoroutes.
Let me talk especially about two ways that Bill 169 would accomplish our objectives on Ontario highways.
As Minister Takhar mentioned, the legislation would double the fines for speeding in highway construction zones where workers are present. Between 1999 and 2003, 50 people were killed in highway work zones across Ontario and close to 3,500 were injured. Although not all of these people were workers, these figures highlight the need to drive safely in work zones. We believe stiffer fines would make drivers think twice about putting the lives of construction workers and their own families at risk by speeding. As Minister Takhar mentioned, under the proposed legislation anyone caught driving 30 kilometres over the posted limit in construction zones when workers are present would face a fine of $420.
We have to remember, at one time, our member from Chatham-Kent-Essex, Pat Hoy, had submitted a bill when we were in opposition, and it is still on the books. But we are taking care of it now. Drivers who ignore the Stop and Slow signs held by traffic control workers would face fines of up to $500, if Bill 169 is passed.
Je voudrais souligner un amendement important au projet de loi.
Cette loi imposerait désormais à l'office de la voirie ou l'entreprise de services publics d'embaucher des personnes ou des contractuels en vue de faciliter la circulation routière. Ces personnes travailleront soit sur la route ou près de celle-ci, dans une zone de construction ou d'entretien, dans le but d'accroître la sécurité du public.
De plus, l'amendement de ce projet de loi permettrait aux pompiers de diriger la circulation en cas d'urgence. Bien entendu, les conducteurs de grues et les préposés à l'entretien doivent avoir une autorisation écrite de l'office de la voirie pour assumer ces tâches.
Bill 169 also addresses truck and bus safety. Our government recognizes the key role played by the 545,000 commercially licensed bus and truck drivers in Ontario. Together, we are improving safety on our roads.
There are now 43% more trucks on our roads than 15 years ago. But the number of fatal collisions involving large trucks has dropped by 21%. Yes, the number of collisions has dropped by 21%.
If passed, Bill 169 would adopt the new and improved National Safety Code standard for daily vehicle inspections. The standard will lead to more stringent and thorough inspections. Mechanical defects would be spotted earlier. If the bill is passed, charges could be laid when parts come flying off on the highway. This includes all vehicles, not just trucks. It would hold many parties accountable, including drivers, owners and even mechanics.
Nous voulons une loi qui soit sévère. Nous voulons que toutes les parties assument les responsabilités en matière de sécurité.
Easing traffic congestion is one of utter importance for our government. Every year almost $1.2 billion worth of goods are carried on Ontario highways. Highway closures can cost up to $600,000 an hour.
Bill 169 would allow police to clear and reopen highways faster than ever in the event of a collision or a spill. It would clarify removal powers and protect police and the province from liability. Sometimes trucking companies or their insurers insist on bringing in a cleanup crew from hundreds of kilometres away. It can take hours.
Police support the bill. As OPP Sergeant Cam Wooley told the Toronto Sun, "The police have been waiting for this legislation for a long time. It's going to save lives, improve the quality of life and the economy." This is a ringing endorsement of our government's effort to improve safety and efficiency on Ontario's roads. I urge all members to lend their support to the bill.
Let me expand on how the bill would improve safety across the province. In 2003, nearly one third of all collisions in northern Ontario occurred on snowy, icy or slushy roads. Bill 169, if passed, would allow the use of studded tires under prescribed circumstances. Research in Sweden shows the use of winter and studded tires can cut winter collisions by about 5%. In northern Ontario, this would represent about three lives saved every winter. This is also something that residents of northern Ontario have been asking for for a very long time, and we have responded.
Il est crucial d'adopter ce projet de loi afin de donner à la population du nord de l'Ontario de meilleurs choix pour conduire en hiver, d'autant plus que l'hiver est à nos portes. Ce n'est pas tout. Le gouvernement travaille avec nos partenaires en sécurité routière afin de sensibiliser les automobilistes et de réduire les risques associés à la conduite en hiver. Nous continuerons à encourager les automobilistes à ralentir sur les routes glacées ou enneigées.
De plus, ce projet de loi 169 permettrait d'améliorer la qualité des cours de conduite automobile aux quatre coins de la province et autoriserait le ministère des Transports à régir la qualité des cours de formation que donnent les moniteurs à toutes les catégories de détenteurs de permis. À l'heure actuelle, les instructeurs des cours de permis de catégorie G doivent remplir certaines conditions imposées par le gouvernement, mais la qualité de la formation de ces moniteurs n'est pas visée ici. Notre projet de loi habiliterait le ministère des Transports à déterminer les qualifications professionnelles que doivent avoir les personnes qui enseignent ces cours de conduite et l'autoriserait à délivrer des permis à ces personnes en plus de les soumettre à un contrôle et à des vérifications.
J'ai ici une lettre du Bureau d'assurance du Canada, un organisme qui depuis longtemps collabore avec le gouvernement pour accroître la sécurité des routes dans laquelle il appuie fermement les mesures que nous proposons. Je vous lis un passage de cette lettre : « Les assureurs demandent de telles mesures d'exécution depuis un bon bout de temps. Nous sommes ravis que vous ayez proposé des dispositions que nous jugeons essentielles. »
La Certified Transportation Instructors Association est d'accord. Son président, Keith Black, a écrit : « Nous croyons que les moniteurs d'auto-écoles vont applaudir ce que fait le gouvernement pour créer un cadre grâce auquel nous serons en mesure de continuer à encourager et à améliorer la sécurité des routes en Ontario. »
Our proposed legislation would give the Minister of Transportation the authority to qualify, license, monitor, inspect and audit people involved in driver training in Ontario.
I have a letter from the Insurance Bureau of Canada, a long-time safety partner, expressing its strong support for this. The letter from the IBC states: "Insurers have been seeking these enforcement measures for some time. We are delighted you have brought forward this essential provision." The Certified Transportation Instructor Association agrees. President Keith Black writes, "We feel that professional driving instructors will applaud the government in their efforts to create an environment that will continue to encourage and upgrade safety in the province of Ontario."
Bill 169 is a wide-ranging package of measures that would improve safety across Ontario. I have only talked about a few aspects of the bill, but this legislation, in total, would improve safety for everyone on our roads, ease congestion on our highways and in our communities and protect consumers, whether they are learning to drive or looking for a cab ride.
Ontario has the safest roads in North America, but we can and must do more to protect people on Ontario roads.
Les routes de l'Ontario sont les plus sécuritaires en Amérique du Nord, mais nous pouvons et devons faire davantage pour protéger les usagers de routes ontariennes.
Grâce au projet de loi 169, la qualité de vie des Ontariens et Ontariennes et leur prospérité en seront grandement améliorées. Je suis convaincu que tous les membres de l'Assemblée législative vont appuyer nos efforts, ainsi que le projet de loi sur les transports en commun et la sécurité routière.
Bill 169 would improve the quality of life for Ontarians and drive our prosperity. I know all members will support our efforts and support our transit and road safety bill.
The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr. Tim Hudak (Erie-Lincoln): I'm pleased to respond to my colleague's comments. The minister probably spoke for about 15 minutes or so on third reading of this bill that comes before us, Bill 169. In fact, one thing I should note for the record -- my colleague from York North had mentioned that Steve Gilchrist, who sat in this House as the member for Scarborough East, had been a very strong proponent of clearing the roadsides to ensure --
Mr. Hudak: He certainly was, and is. He stood by his Conservative team, that's for sure. He was somebody you would want helping you out in the corners, there's no doubt about it.
Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): Cuddly.
Mr. Hudak: Absolutely.
Mr. Kormos: Fuzzy.
Mr. Hudak: Fuzzy to an extent. I think that wasn't exactly what I was going to speak about with respect to Mr. Gilchrist -- very important points -- but nonetheless, he was a champion of this initiative to make sure that police, fire and other emergency services had the ability to clear roadside accidents relatively quickly and therefore facilitate the movement of commuters, trade and others utilizing particularly the 400-series highways. We're pleased to see aspects like that in Bill 169, as I said before, but I do think it's important as well to commend Mr. Gilchrist, who probably, I think, from time to time, still watches these legislative proceedings. He would probably ask --
Mr. Hudak: You think daily? I don't know if Steve will be upset that I'm not wearing my jacket. It's the first time I've spoken without a jacket. Caught me a bit off guard. But while we're debating 169 -- I'll rise to speak more to the contents a bit later on -- I do want to commend a colleague who sat in this place for eight years and who had pushed this initiative. I know Mr. Gilchrist, the former member from Scarborough East, would be pleased to see it moving forward under Bill 169.
Mr. Kormos: New Democrats agree there is much in the bill that warrants passage of the bill. The minister knows this. The arguments have been made. He's well aware of our concerns, specifically about section 4, and section 1 to the extent that it incorporates and refers to section 4.
Studded tires: I'm from southern Ontario. The only member further south than me, at least in terms of central Ontario, is Tim Hudak. Now, as you get further west, down toward Windsor way, you get further south, but that's a different story. Far be it from me to tell northerners not to use studded tires. I'm prepared to concede that common sense tells you that studded tires are going to enhance safety. At the same time, it's got to be understood that studded tires, notwithstanding the Swedish technology, are probably going to cause some enhanced wear of roadways, at some points, in some places. Again, I'm not suggesting in any way, shape or form that the quality of the roadway or the value of the roadway overrides the value of human life, because I'm not the one who has to drive in what are remarkable winter conditions. No doubt in Niagara or Toronto if it snows a little bit everything comes to a dead halt. In northern Ontario people travel great distances in some pretty cold, freezing, snowy, icy weather. But I think one of the things that the government hasn't addressed, notwithstanding the Swedish technology, is the prospect of enhanced road repair and maintenance costs for municipalities in which drivers logically, when permitted by law, use studded tires. One of the things we're interested in, not to the point of saying no to studded tires, is methods of assessing the amount of increased road damage and, of course, the government's response to that. I'll speak to that further in the course of my opportunity.
Mr. Jeff Leal (Peterborough): I think it's quite clear to most people in this House or listening in this evening that the Minister of Transportation and his parliamentary assistant have made very compelling arguments to bring about passage of Bill 169 on third reading.
One of the things that really interests me is enhancing speeding fines within a construction zone. It's interesting, when you see work being done on a highway, whether it's a highway or a municipal road, that now they try to shame you into slowing down. Often, they'll have electronic signs in place. They clearly mark it: Reduce speed within a construction zone. There may be a road flag person there trying to bring vehicles to a stop. But often you'll see now that they put up these digital electronic signs to try to, as I said, shame people into in fact lowering their speeds as they go through a construction zone, because, indeed, it's very risky going through at a higher speed. People are working there; there's equipment moving. That part of the bill, I think, goes a long way to improving safety through a construction zone for the flag people and the people who are working there.
Secondly, enhancing safety at school crossings: It's been mentioned that the member from Chatham-Kent Essex was a real leader in this particular area, school crossings, and making sure that it's safe for both students and other pedestrians who may want to be getting across.
Thirdly, the area of tighter security: A provision in this bill to prevent driver's licence fraud, I think, is extremely important. We know that there are elements in our society today that are getting hold of fraudulent documents in order to do things that we'd consider less desirable.
There are many points of this bill that are very important, I think, to the people of Ontario and that certainly need to be supported at third reading
Mr. Ted Chudleigh (Halton): This is a very interesting bill. It's a bill that has many clauses in it that are very supportable and that make good sense. I notice that the first section, section 128, that's talked about in the explanatory notes talks about the ability for municipalities to pass a bylaw that would limit the speed limit to 30 kilometres per hour in traffic-calming areas. On the face of it, that would be a marvellous opportunity for some municipalities to use in a traffic-calming area, providing that traffic-calming area didn't become a backlog and a backup for traffic, causing frustrations for drivers and resultant erratic driving patterns that sometimes frustrated drivers exhibit.
Section 128 is another one that I think might cause confusion. It suggests that they would be able to use "variable speed limits on designated highways or parts of highways." Driving down many highways, particularly when you're cruising down through the United States, quite often the speed limit changes from 55 to somewhere between 55 and 75, and it's the same highway. I find it very confusing. You never know what the speed limit is. Although I always tend to be cautious in those situations, it could be a wonderful opportunity for police officers to create a fishing hole, I think they call it, where it's an opportunity to give out tickets. So it confuses drivers on any given highway. It also goes on to talk about different speed limits applying at different times of day, so that you would have to check your watch to see what the speed limit was on a particular highway.
I find those things to be very confusing, and I think a confused driver on a highway is a dangerous driver. I think that perhaps in committee we should have had a look at that. Perhaps the minister wants to consider whether or not that's a good idea for Ontario.
The Deputy Speaker: Reply, member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.
Mr. Lalonde: I just heard the member from Niagara Centre talking about the studded tire. Let me tell you that the studded tires of the past are gone. I know that at the time they were doing some damage to our roads, but the new ones are what we call Scandinavian studded tires. If they are to save lives in Ontario -- we predict that having permission to use studded tires could save up to three lives a year -- there's no money when it comes down to saving lives. Really, you just can't compare the temperature down in the Niagara area with the temperatures up north. This is why, if Bill 169 is passed, these studded tires will be permissible in the northern part of Ontario.
The member for Halton has mentioned the reduction of speed in a work zone. I just wanted to mention that my colleague from Chatham-Kent-Essex was telling me that one of his colleagues, a close friend, was killed in a work zone in the Chatham-Kent area, and that is why he introduced his bill in December 2001. Today, in Bill 169 we are taking this into consideration again to try to save lives in Ontario.
Those are the two points I want to bring back to the attention of all of the members.
The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?
Mrs. Julia Munro (York North): I believe we have unanimous consent to defer our lead speaker on this bill.
The Deputy Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to step down the lead? Agreed.
Mrs. Munro: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member from Cambridge.
I'm pleased to be able to join the debate on Bill 169. I think there's considerable understanding here of the fact that there are a number of worthwhile features to this bill. At the same time, there are some issues that remain of concern to many Ontarians. There's also the concern about the question of the increased burden on enforcement agencies and how to pay for these new rules.
As a former parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Transportation, I have to say that I've had the opportunity -- I will speak to in a few moments about some of the issues that appear in this bill -- and so find it very interesting then to see that this government is moving on some of those initiatives.
There is, however, one particularly dark cloud in this bill, and that has to do with the taxi dispute that this bill attempts to resolve. It simply remains one of the flawed areas of the bill. The government has failed to properly consult with drivers from Toronto to alleviate their concerns about the bill. As recently as today, our party's transportation critic, the member for Durham, has urged the government not to pass the anti-scooping provisions of the bill, and it's worth reading into the record the concerns that have been expressed on this issue.
"The official opposition is asking that sections of Bill 169 affecting the taxi and limousine industry not be proclaimed until the issue can be dealt with either under the Municipal Act or the City of Toronto Act," and obviously then concerns that reflect the discussions. "In committee, the Liberals promised to deal with this section of the bill. The opposition is asking that Bill 169 be sent to committee of the whole to remove the section that affects the taxi industry." I think that it's important to indicate here the concerns that have been raised on this particular part of the bill.
I want to refer to a particular area in the bill on construction sites because these have always been a major concern for advocates of transportation safety. In my former role as the parliamentary assistant, I chaired the then minister's advisory committee on safety, and certainly construction sites was one of the key areas of concern. Some of the initiatives that we see in this particular bill reflect those discussions and probably go a considerable distance to meet the kinds of concerns that were raised in that committee.
Section 128 of the Highway Traffic Act is amended to permit municipalities to designate construction zones on highways and to set a maximum speed of not less than 40 kilometres an hour. A new section requires drivers to obey traffic control stop and slow signs displayed by a traffic control person on or adjacent to a roadway where construction or maintenance work is being carried out. Fines for speeding in those areas have now doubled. I think this reflects the conversations that we had at the time because of the fact that municipalities also have a role and a concern about safety, as well as the provincial ministry.
Obviously, I support these sections very strongly, as construction workers who have no choice but to work along our highways deserve, quite frankly, better protection. Drivers need to be aware and take care in all driving conditions, and particularly in times of bad weather and low visibility. In the committee hearings on this bill, the Ontario Safety League indicated its support for this provision, pointing out that, in many cases, construction personnel have been injured or even killed as a result of reckless behaviour.
Another important section of the bill will allow the minister to designate any lane as a high-occupancy vehicle lane and to limit the use of that lane to particular vehicles with a specified number of passengers. However, there are concerns that I think the ministry needs to look at with regard to that, particularly those raised by some of the stakeholders, including the Ontario Trucking Association, which was concerned about knowing how they're going to have any effect on congestion. In my own experience in driving where those lanes exist in other jurisdictions, they're very often separated by a concrete barrier. The evidence seems to suggest that without that barrier, there is an increase in collisions.
Ontario's truckers are also concerned that the changes mean that existing lanes will be designated high occupancy, not just new lanes and, of course, they worry about the loss in capacity on our highways. I have to say that, as a driver, I'm very concerned as well, because what we're doing is, perhaps prematurely, taking these lanes out of service to make them high-occupancy lanes. When you look at the greater Toronto area and the kind of congestion we're dealing with, this becomes an even greater concern.
Enforcement is another key concern regarding this bill, because any changes to any law are only as good as the political will to enforce. While this bill gives increased powers to police and inspectors, it also assumes that they're going to be able to perform a greater number of services. When we're looking at a government that continues to promise 1,000 new police officers but does not deliver, I think it's legitimate to have some concerns about the issue not only of who foots the bill for this but, in fact, how enforcement is going to take place. This, again, was something shared by the Ontario Safety League. The Ontario Trucking Association also raised the issue of there not being enough OPP officers on our highways currently, so this will only be exacerbated.
One of the other aspects of this bill in terms of enforcement was related by my colleague Jim Wilson, who, when the bill was introduced, very wisely stated that MADD Canada has pointed out that when 16,500 drivers are suspended every year and drive after being charged with impaired driving, there's no sense making more laws if you can't follow through on enforcement. So I think there's a real concern amongst the users and the people who would like to support the bill that without the appropriate enforcement, these changes are meaningless.
When you look at the kinds of statistics that MADD can provide us with, they certainly demonstrate that if there are over 16,000 drivers on the road who have suspended licences, they're hardly going to be particularly interested in following laws with regard to school zoning and reduced speeds. So I think that certainly remains a concern.
Members may recall that this House unanimously passed my resolution to establish roadside memorials for those killed by drunk drivers. I have to give credit to the Minister of Transportation, who has assured me that his ministry is acting on this. The media have reported details, and I am pleased to see that the minister is carrying out the will of the House on this issue.
Frankly, I wish that my resolution was unnecessary. If we had the right enforcement, then more drunk drivers would be off the road. We need more enforcement for all driving and speeding violations. If someone is willing to drink and drive, they are probably willing to violate other traffic laws. Bad drivers are bad drivers whether they drink or not: If someone does not care enough to slow down for the safety of construction workers beside the road, they probably don't care that it is wrong to drive drunk.
When it comes to highway safety, the priority must be on keeping people safe. I was certainly very proud of the aggressive manner in which the former government attacked the problem of flying truck tires. The current bill has some important points to add to these protections, but we must remember that our campaign against flying tires only succeeded because we put in the appropriate measures of enforcement.
This continues, then, to be a very strong message on any kind of legislation that will deal with carrying through on the laws that are proposed in this bill. The government must also move on to deal with the rest of the problems with transportation and its infrastructure. Gridlock is becoming a larger issue every day in Ontario: The government's policies will make the problem even worse. The greenbelt, in particular, will require massive highway investments to service the development that will leapfrog the greenbelt areas like Guelph, Orangeville and southern Simcoe county.
In closing, I would say that Bill 169 is generally a positive bill, but this government has many outstanding issues to resolve on the transportation file.
Mr. Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): I have the pleasure to address the merits of Bill 169, and there are a number of laudable and good sections to this bill that could assist drivers and make our highways safer.
I'd like, however, to deal first with one section on which I hope the government will take the recommendations made by the opposition party, and that is section 4, which deals with the pickup of passengers at the airport.
That is a long, outstanding problem, the battle -- if I may put it that way -- between the airport limousines and the taxi industry. It has been going on for a long time, and this bill attempts to address that problem in section 4 and solve it to the satisfaction of the government. However, it does lead to some problems that I'd like to discuss.
Recently, I spent one month in India travelling from Dehli to Jaipur to Agra for the Taj Mahal and then to Goa. I was amazed at the number of vehicles on the road, and not just automobiles, but also trucks and motorized rickshaws, as they call them. The traffic was extremely heavy, and I thought of our country of 30 million and compared it to the population of India, which is just under a billion people today, as I understand it. I thought how they have so few cars per capita compared to us, but those numbers of vehicles are increasing rapidly, and where is the energy and the oil going to come from?
We know that Canada as a whole is wasteful of energy. We have a cold climate and therefore we need energy for that purpose. We have a large country and we need gasoline for that purpose. Everyone talks about conservation, everyone wants to do something, but we never really seem to get around to it.
Two years ago, I spent a considerable length of time in China. Of course, at one billion people, they too have traffic jams, and the need for energy is growing there also.
The trouble with section 4 is that it codifies the misuse of energy. It may try to address the problem and the concerns between the taxi industry and the limousine industry; however, it ends up being wasteful of energy. It seems that the Minister of Transport didn't discuss the matter with the Minister of Energy. The Minister of Energy talks about the conservation of energy and how we've got do something, and I think everybody's in agreement with that, yet section 4 of this Bill 169 codifies and imposes dead loads from the airport.
Now, what does that mean? At the present time, limousines are entitled to pick up people at the airport and drive them to their homes anywhere in Ontario. That's not a dead load; the automobile is occupied and performing a service and transporting the individuals from the airport to their homes. But limousine drivers also have the privilege of picking up drivers to drive them back from their home to the airport. That's not totally efficient, because I'm sure there are many times when the car is returning to the airport or making a pickup and it is empty. However, there are many occasions, since they have the privilege of picking passengers up and bringing them to the airport -- they're also entitled under the law to pick passengers up at a hotel, where they might be referred by a doorman or a concierge. There is at least a method there of possibly filling up an automobile -- and they're large automobiles. Limousine drivers live up to their name, because they're usually driving Lincolns with a V8 motor, which is a substantial gas guzzler. But that is partially efficient.
What section 4 does is ensure and codify that taxicabs, however, will never be inefficient when it comes to energy in dealing with the airport, because what it says is very simple: Taxis may deliver passengers to the airport, so they're performing a worthwhile function, and they are burning gasoline, of course; however, it specifies specifically that they shall not, under any circumstances, pick up passengers at the airport. That means that all taxis delivering passengers to the airport will, of necessity and under the laws of the province of Ontario, return to wherever they started from in the city, or to their headquarters, and they will be returning empty and devoid of all passengers. That is a waste.
I get the feeling this all grew up because, perhaps, as I said, the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Transportation really didn't think and didn't communicate. One of the problems with government is what they call the silo effect, where ministries come up with legislation in a silo and, through the lack of communication with other ministries, they are encroaching or working at cross-purposes. I don't think I've ever seen a case so blatant as this one in wasting energy, where at the same time we have the Minister of Energy promising and attempting to bring energy savings to Ontario, energy savings that we sorely need if we are to remain competitive in world markets.
The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?
Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): I want to take the time to make a few comments on the debate presented tonight by the members from York North and Cambridge. They've raised a couple of important and salient points about this bill. I will be taking an opportunity to raise some of these issues and reinforce some of the concerns that we in the New Democratic Party have on this particular bill.
I think the points they've made are reflective of the situation out there with regard to the stakeholders and with regard to the good and the bad of the bill. It's an unfortunate scenario that we're in the situation where the bad is so bad and where both opposition parties are saying that it could be resolved in a very easy way if we take the bad and do something else with it, because the good is so good that everybody can support it. Unfortunately, the government doesn't seem to be prepared -- at least as far as I know -- to deal with that particular situation, and that's an unfortunate thing.
It's unfortunate when you could get a consensus of sorts or an agreement on 80% or 90% of a bill and unfortunately there are odious pieces in it, unsupportable pieces in it, pieces in it that are just vulgar in terms of the effect they have on some of the stakeholders. It's unfortunate that we're in that situation.
I'm going to take the time in a few moments to outline, from the NDP's perspective, what the lay of the land is with regard to this bill. I think that the members who have spoken just now are on the right track in terms of some of the issues they've raised, and I look forward to making my contribution in a very few moments.
Mrs. Carol Mitchell (Huron-Bruce): I'm certainly pleased to rise this evening and speak in support of Bill 169 and to add further comments to those of the members from Halton and York North. I believe Bill 169 will promote a transit system that will move us forward.
I also want to speak to one very specific part of the act, and that is also in recognition of the member for Chatham−Kent Essex. I believe a lot of work was done by this good member. When we see regulations like this coming forward, what more can we as a government do to support our children? Just to reinforce what it is, this will require drivers to remain stopped at school crossings until children and crossing guards have left half of the roadway where a vehicle is travelling. It will require crossing guards to display a stop sign until all children have left the crossing. I can tell you that moving our children around is something that we must do in order to ensure that they receive a proper education in our rural communities. It's so important to ensure that our children remain safe, so seeing this as part of Bill 169 is important for our rural communities and the health and safety of our children.
The amendments that are part of Bill 169 will give the providers of our transportation system new tools to provide a far more effective transportation system, and we as a government will move this forward. It's certainly my pleasure to rise and support Bill 169.
Mr. Chudleigh: It's an interesting bill, and there were many interesting points brought to bear by the members from Simcoe somewhere and Cambridge someplace.
The Deputy Speaker: I believe it's York North and Cambridge.
Mr. Chudleigh: Somewhere around there. I know where they live.
I thought one of the interesting points was that this bill is going to create a legislated dead-loading. When trucks have to travel from one point to another to pick up a load, that time they travel with no load on their truck is called dead-loading. When you're driving a tractor-trailer, that's a very expensive operation and you want to make sure your dead-loading is as short as possible, that there's always some load in the back of the truck that's paying your gas bill and giving you some return on your investment.
This bill is going to legislate dead-loading so that any taxis that run to the airport will be using a very precious commodity that our society is only just beginning to appreciate -- the cost of gasoline -- as they dead-load back to where they might again pick up a paying fare. If we don't maximize our ability to use gasoline and make the most of it, then there are all kinds of consequences of that, including the consequences of unnecessary pollution and all the things that spin out of that.
I haven't looked at all the sections and understood the bill completely as to the balance, but a lot of sections of this bill give us concerns. There are also a lot of sections that are commendable. It's that mix of sections that make this bill very interesting.
Mr. Kormos: Folks should know that in almost four minutes' time, Andrea Horwath, the New Democratic Party member for Hamilton East, who of course is the newest member of our caucus, having been elected in a by-election in Hamilton East -- and you should know that Sheila White is, as we speak, out campaigning in the Scarborough riding where a by-election has been called. Sheila White, the NDP candidate, who lives in the riding, who knows it well, who is just an incredibly effective, capable person and who will indeed be an extremely valuable additional to this Legislature, not just for New Democrats but, as Ms. Horwath was, for the Legislative Assembly as a whole. Sheila White -- the Scarborough by-election just called -- is out there campaigning right now.
Section 146.1 that was created by the act is an interesting one. It's one that we support. Just as we supported the Highway Traffic Act amendment that required drivers approaching a police cruiser that is parked by the side -- remember that one? A police cruiser parked with the lights flashing? You'll recall that New Democrats fought tooth and nail to try to get the government to beef that one up. We said if it's good enough for police officers, why isn't it good enough for firefighters? Why isn't it good enough for road crews with the yellow flashing signs?
The other observation that was made, as I said at the time, was, "Look, only an idiot doesn't slow down for police cruisers that are on the side of the road doing an investigation and, furthermore, try to move over one lane." It became law, and as I travel the QEW, primarily, it's amazing. Moron after moron after moron persists in speeding by -- well, they do -- notwithstanding that it became law with some pretty serious consequences. I'm going to speak to that and to the fact that what we have to do now is integrate 146.1, should this bill pass, with that previous statutory requirement in the Highway Traffic Act.
The Deputy Speaker: Two minutes to reply, the member for York North.
Mrs. Munro: I've listened to the two-minute comments of different members, and I have to say that they're certainly, at best, very wide-ranging in their responses, some of which have absolutely nothing to do with the bill and others which have a kind of tenuous connection.
However, from the comments, I think the member from Hamilton East and I probably share the most in common in terms of concerns.
Mr. Kormos: You're the only two rational people here.
Mrs. Munro: Women.
One of the problems for a government when it tries to cobble together so many issues under one umbrella topic is that people are going to divide on the issue: that some aspects are laudable and are maybe overdue and certainly areas on which the government should proceed, but then there are the contentious ones, the ones where people have a feeling that this is just being pushed forward and there isn't the kind of consensus and resolution that frankly there should be.
In my final comment, I would just say that as with any piece of legislation, it is only as good as it is able to be enforced. That is going to be the litmus test of this bill's success. There are a number of initiatives around safety that are laudable: Are they going to be enforced?
The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?
Ms. Horwath: I first believe that we have unanimous consent to stand down the lead of our critic in this area.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Hamilton East has asked for unanimous consent to stand down --
The Deputy Speaker: I heard a no.
Interjection: No. I said "yo."
The Deputy Speaker: Oh, "yo." Thank you. That makes me feel a lot better. Agreed.
The member for Hamilton East.
Ms. Horwath: I was getting a little nervous trying to figure out how I was going to fill an hour of remarks.
Mr. Kormos: You would have done fine.
Ms. Horwath: Thank you, Mr. Kormos, I appreciate that.
I wanted to first acknowledge that our critic for this area was completely planning to be here tonight, had every intention of being here tonight, but members will know that there have been some urgent issues that have taken not only his attention but finally the attention of the government -- significantly overdue -- in the community of Kashechewan, a community he represents, that has had some real, ongoing, in fact deadly issues with their drinking water, so he has had to go back to his riding this evening to make sure that those issues are being adequately looked after tonight and, hopefully, tomorrow as well.
Because he was unable to attend tonight, we've asked for that unanimous consent. To a great extent, I appreciate the government and the official opposition's willingness to stand down that lead. Gilles Bisson has been carrying this file as the critic from day one, and his understanding of the issues and the stakeholders is acute. It would be a disservice to this House and to this Legislature to not have his voice in its full capacity as a one-hour lead-off speech on this particular bill.
Having said that, there are some things I would like to raise about the bill. I think it's fair to say that Bill 169, the Transportation Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, can be characterized as a bill that contains the good, the bad and the ugly. I'm going to spend some time on each of those areas --
Mr. Kormos: That would be a great movie title.
Ms. Horwath: The good, the bad and the ugly? I think I've got something there. It could be something, Mr. Kormos, that we could maybe make some money on some day in our retirements, because Lord knows -- well, we're not going to go into the retirement issue.
Nonetheless, there are some specific pieces of this bill that are supportable, that in fact New Democrats support wholeheartedly, that we would like to see fast-tracked, as a matter of fact, that we would like to see implemented; provisions, for example, that make cities and towns safer for pedestrians, that raise fines and create greater enforcement for infractions that exist right now in pedestrian areas, fines that currently are not deterrents, but this bill will help to beef up the deterrent factor in some of these areas.
There are, however, other pieces that are missing. For example, fines and demerit points are one thing, but funding of enforcement agencies, funding of police to be able to enforce new regulations, is another matter altogether. So although on the one hand we think it's the right direction, on the other hand we recognize that there needs to be some resources put into the enforcement of any new standards.
The one that's really important and that we would like to see implemented at as quick a pace as possible is the implementation of the high-occupancy vehicle lanes on major highways in the GTA. We all know that gridlock is a significant problem in this province. Mr. Kormos, the member for Niagara Centre, was saying the QEW is the highway he most often travels, and coming from just up the street from him, in Hamilton, it is also the highway that I most often travel in the province of Ontario, and it is frozen with gridlock on a regular basis. We as New Democrats believe that measures in Bill 169 that would enable the government to introduce those high-occupancy lanes are long overdue. The minister needs to get on with this particular task and I think we would immediately see an impact on the level of gridlock that exists currently. We would be reducing the number of vehicles on the highways almost immediately. I don't know how many times it's happened to anybody that actually drives the --
The Deputy Speaker: Member for Hamilton East, just for a second. I'm really having a little trouble concentrating up here this evening with the chatter that's going on. Just keep it to a lower level, please, so we can hear the member.
Ms. Horwath: I was having a hard time concentrating myself. My point was that it's simple math. Anybody who has driven on the highway looks around -- I do it every time I'm forced to take a car. I'm proud to say that I don't take a car from Hamilton to Toronto every day. I try as often as possible to take the GO train. I'm in the very enviable position of living right now about a block and a half away -- not even a block and a half, really, a block away -- from our GO station in Hamilton, so as often as possible, I take the GO train. The service isn't as regular as I would like to see, and I think that's another area that we need to address in this House, to try to get that service beefed up in urban centres that are close to Toronto. But if I do have to take my car, I don't know how many times I've looked around and, in every direction, the only thing I see is cars with single-driver occupancy. The piece of this bill that addresses the high-occupancy vehicle lanes would be able to affect that almost immediately. You would see people catching on to the fact that if you're carpooling, if you have more than one person, maybe three or four people, in your car, you're able to take a lane designated for a larger number of people, thereby taking people out of the traffic flow generally and increasing movement on the highway.
That's one of the good things. If you recall, I said this bill is about the good, the bad and the ugly.
I'm going to spend some more time on some of the other issues of the good, but before doing so I think it's really important, because I don't have very much time, to start talking a little bit about what's problematic in the bill. One of the things that is problematic, and it's really clear that it's problematic, because very few bills lead to the kinds of demonstrations, the kinds of grassroots effort, the kinds of obvious and vociferous demonstration that took place here just the other day and of course took place when the bill was first introduced -- I guess that was actually at second reading, when the bill was in second reading. Those were the voices, the horns and unfortunately the exhaust fumes of the people from the taxi industry who were here at Queen's Park protesting this particular bill. The Toronto taxi industry has been here at least twice to show their utter disdain for section 4 of schedule A in this bill. Why did they do that? I'm going to try to explain it a little bit and then perhaps, if I have time, I'm going to quote directly from some of the literature they prepared for these demonstrations.
The bottom line is that they see that section of the bill as entrenching an already unfair system, that it basically legislates the injustices that exist right now in the system with taxi and limousine services in Toronto and at the airport. What they're saying -- and they're correct -- is that these issues are actually governed under the Municipal Act, and what this particular piece of the legislation is doing is saying to one sector that scooping is not OK and, de facto, saying that it is OK in another sector, just by virtue of the fact that in one sector it can be more or less policed, regulated and controlled, because geographically the airport is a place that can easily be monitored and controlled, whereas the rest of the city of Toronto cannot be easily policed, monitored or controlled in regard to anti-scooping amendments.
Unfortunately, what the government has ended up doing in this bill has been in favour of one taxi jurisdiction, a.k.a the airport limousine sector, at the expense of the Toronto taxi and limousine drivers. The Toronto taxi industry sees section 4 of this bill as a way of strengthening the existing system, which virtually allows the airport taxis and limousines to pick up fares within the city, largely at will, and take them to the airport without any problem, but in the case of the taxi industry in Toronto, the licensed taxi and limousine drivers have to pay a $10 fee as they queue up in the airport to take a fare back with them, and that's not a requirement for the limousine drivers. That's the crux of the injustice that is enshrined and entrenched in this bill.
Instead of doing the thing that really would address this problem, instead of opening up the Municipal Act and trying to level the playing field between these various stakeholders -- the airport drivers and the Toronto drivers -- the government has opted to make these amendments to the Highway Traffic Act that are found in section 4 of Bill 169, and that is really entrenching an existing system of unfairness, inequity and economic hardship for the taxi industry in the city of Toronto.
I try not to take vehicles wherever I go; I try to take public transit. I try not to use my personal auto. In fact, when I am in Toronto and I'm sans automobile, when I'm without my car, I often walk. I try to walk as much as possible, because it's good exercise. Sitting in this Legislature until 9:30 at night doesn't give you much exercise, so when I can, I walk. But when I can't, when there's inclement weather, when I have many pieces of luggage or baggage that I have to carry, I call a cab. I can tell you that since this issue hit the Legislature, virtually every single taxi driver I have spoken to -- and there are thousands of them -- has said the same thing. I ask them, "Do you know anything about this legislation that's in front of the Legislature called Bill 169?" and of course, they have done an excellent job of educating the taxi drivers in the city. Virtually every taxi driver knows what's going on, and I'm telling you, they're ticked, they're unhappy, they're displeased, they're frustrated and they're angry, and I don't blame them one bit. Notwithstanding their efforts to have this bill altered or changed in a way that makes it more fair for them, the government has simply been ignoring their pleas, and their concerns have been falling on deaf ears. That's the unfortunate situation that still exists until this day, at third reading of this bill. That's an unfortunate thing and it's one of the bads.
I probably have a minute or two to read this out. The taxi industry demonstration that took place had a number of points to it, and I'm going to read them quickly because I think they're important. This is in their own words. We can sit here and talk about what they think and what this person or that person thinks, but when it's in their own words, you really get a better understanding of how they perceive the issue. They say:
"The purpose of the demonstration is twofold. First, to bring to the public's attention the lack of a level playing field that has been prevalent between the Toronto taxi industry and Pearson airport taxis and limousines for the last 27 years, and second, to expose the true motives behind the introduction of a certain part of Bill 169 by the Minister of Transportation, Harinder Takhar."
That is probably the ugly, and I think if I have a chance, I'll talk a little bit about what they're alluding to when they talk about exposing the true motives behind the introduction.
Nonetheless, the flyer goes on to talk about the specifics around the issues. What they say at the end is:
"Finally, we would like to reiterate that in a meeting on Monday, April 25, 2005, the city of Toronto's planning and transportation committee adopted a motion...." It reads:
"The city indicate its opposition to Bill 169 (An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act and to amend and repeal various other statutes in respect of transportation-related matters) as it pertains to `scooping' fares at the airport, unless it is amended to remove the exemption that permits airport licensed vehicles from `scooping' fares within the city of Toronto, and the Minister of Transportation and opposition critics be so advised."
So basically, the city of Toronto agrees. I know there is other evidence of that, other documentation of that disagreement. If the industry is out in droves more than once -- very often -- on this issue and the city of Toronto is saying that this is the wrong thing to do, then it's incumbent upon us here to do the right thing and address the concerns that are being raised, not simply turn a blind eye to the concerns that are being raised.
I think when we're talking about the problems with this bill, there are several others but this is the biggest one. This is the most difficult one for New Democrats to find a way of supporting. It's unfortunate, because as I said at the very beginning, there is the good; this bill has a considerable amount of the good in it. But unfortunately, the bad is so bad that it simply outshines the good, it simply overcomes the good, it simply overshadows the good, to the point where the good is almost irrelevant because the bad is so odiously bad.
I need to spend a couple of minutes on the ugly. It's not an easy kind of area to raise, but I think it's necessary. In talking to me about this bill, some people have used words that are quite strong. They've talked about it being odious and vulgar and purulent and a symbol or display of the entrenchment of things like -- I have tried to look up other words, because I know this word is not a good word to use in the Legislature, but I couldn't find any other synonym. People are saying that this is a vulgar symbol or display of the entrenchment of cronyism into law, into legislation, and when the taxi drivers alluded in their discussion to certain parts of the bill having motives behind them, I think that's what they were talking about. They were talking about the suspicion that in fact certain members of certain communities, particularly those being represented by the sponsor of the bill -- the minister -- are ones who will benefit specifically from this bill, and that's something that --
The Deputy Speaker: I think we're treading in dangerous territory. You're impugning the motives of others. I really wish you'd try to tread carefully, OK?
Ms. Horwath: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. If it was perceived to be that way, then I certainly withdraw anything that smacks of that kind of concern. I do have to say, though, that there is some concern over why the voices are not being heard in the industry that are quite concerned about the situation.
I think the most frustrating of all, which is really part of the ugly, is that there is a way to fix this. New Democrats have formally given the government an opportunity to fix this. When government knows darned well that all of us -- New Democrats, opposition Conservatives and members of the Liberal caucus -- really support the good parts of the bill wholeheartedly, there's an opportunity, then, to have this bill passed, to have consensus on this bill, to have all-party agreement on moving this bill forward if, and only if, the government would sever off the pieces that remain so problematic.
In fact, my House leader, Peter Kormos, the member from Niagara Centre, who's keeping me company in the House tonight, and who's here to speak to this bill as well, sent a letter to the Honourable Jim Bradley, the government House leader, just a couple of days ago, as New Democrats often do, trying to solve problems, trying to find solutions, trying to do the right thing for people --
Mr. Kormos: Trying to make peace.
Ms. Horwath: -- trying to make peace.
Mr. Kormos: Trying to eliminate conflict.
Ms. Horwath: Right -- trying to bring forward the practical solutions that can move things forward, that can make real changes in a positive way. So in that light, Mr. Kormos sent a letter to Jim Bradley asking that this bill basically be severed, that sections 1 and 4 of schedule A of Bill 169, which have been extremely contentious with the taxi drivers, be removed, be taken away and dealt with separately so that the remainder of the bill can be moved forward in a quick and judicious fashion.
This kind of proposal is one that's practical, one that's realistic, one that's reasonable, and I can't understand why it wouldn't be agreed upon. I wouldn't want to think that there are motives other than wanting to stick with the original bill. You know how it happens. You get your heels dug in and you say: "You know what? Hell, no, I won't go. This is our bill, and this is the way we're going to do it." Unfortunately, there are times that you really need to stand back from your initial stubbornness, your initial position, the trench you've put yourself into and say, "For the good of the industry, for the good of the House and for the good of moving something forward that will really help the people of Ontario, let's split this bill and let's vote on the pieces separately and we can move things forward in the province."
The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr. Lalonde: I want to address some of the concerns that members of the opposition spoke about. Section 4, taxi scoopers: We are concerned about the safety of the people of Ontario. We have to stop the illegal activity that goes on. We have to protect consumers, not only in the GTAA area, but Bill 169 is for the whole province of Ontario. It is for Ottawa and Sudbury -- it is for anywhere in Ontario -- Niagara Falls, all those places. We want to make sure that the taxi industry is viable and strong.
I don't know if all members are aware that at the present time, a taxi plate at the GTAA -- the last one that was sold cost $465,000. Those people do an average of seven and a half trips per eight hours. They have to be parked in the compound in Toronto around Pearson airport. The other taxis in Toronto -- there were 400 of those plates were issued by GTAA. Fifty of them have a licence for both Toronto and the GTAA. I want to make sure that people are aware that any taxicab from Toronto can go to the airport on a prearranged trip. They can pick up any passenger at the airport as long as it is prearranged and they pay $10, because we have to recognize those people have paid a high cost for their licence plates.
Most of the time, scoopers are not insured. They're picking up passengers, driving them to Toronto at fares which are sometimes as high as $180 for a trip from the airport. This is why we have to stop scoopers. We've had members who had to pay $80 to get here from the airport.
Mr. Chudleigh: It's always interesting to listen to the perspectives on this bill. The member was quite right; it's a good bill in some respects, as I said before, and it could be a bad bill in other respects; I think she said it was downright ugly in other respects.
One of the things that concerns me about the bill is the confusion aspect, that when you consider section 128, where the ministry can set different speed limits on the same road for different times of day, and different speed limits on different lanes on the same stretch of road over a period of time, I think you're going to end up with a very confused driver. Highway safety is probably predicated on the fact that if you have a confused driver, you're going to have a confused traffic place, and it's going to be a dangerous place to drive in. Why the minister would consider that this was a preferred or a proper way to proceed would give me some concern on that area.
The so-called scooping bylaw section, section 39.1 of the bill, basically creates a concern that there might be a treading on federal jurisdictions. I'm not constitutional lawyer, although I'm sure a constitutional lawyer would look upon this as a good source of income for an upcoming case, and might take some issue with the fact that a bill could be defined as having some federal or provincial jurisdictions, especially when you're operating on the GTAA, the airport, which is federal territory and federal jurisdiction.
Mr. Kormos: The member from Hamilton East has done it again: She has hit the nail right on the head. She's taken this bill and condensed it down into a very clear and concise demonstration of this government's inability to come to grips with the real issue.
Everybody disdains scoopers; that's the whole point. Down in smaller-town Ontario, our cab drivers have concerns about scoopers -- non-licensed cabs. The fact is that the regional bylaws have not been very well enforced simply because of the resources necessary. The fact is that the Highway Traffic Act amendments aren't going facilitate the enforcement, are they, Mr. Hudak?
Mr. Hudak: Not a bit.
Mr. Kormos: We have the regional bylaw now that permits the police to charge -- I'll call them outlaw cabs, non-licensed cabs, and they're operating in university towns, they operate sometimes under the guise of delivery service. We have no qualms about busting unlicensed cabs picking up anywhere. But the concern that taxicab drivers have is that while the government was very clear in its protection of limousine drivers from competition by taxicabs who aren't licensed by the airport authority, the government ignored the very well articulated problem of limo drivers scooping taxi fares once they're in the city of Toronto. There was very clear evidence given of doormen, concierges, as has been mentioned, getting kickbacks for steering limo drivers to clientele. The government has missed the mark on that one; that's why we have these great concerns about section 4.
Mr. Dave Levac (Brant): I appreciate the opportunity to engage, in a very short time, on the bill at this moment, and also to respond to a couple of items that were brought to my attention by the member from Halton.
One of the things he talked about was the inconsistency or the concern that he had about the different speed ranges that he was talking about in this particular bill. I want to bring to his attention that in 2002, 2003 and 2004, I introduced a bill called An Act to honour Carlie Myke and Brandon White by amending the Highway Traffic Act to reduce the rate of speed permitted on highways surrounding schools and to ensure traffic safety in school zones. Part of that bill was captured in this particular bill. What I want to tell him is that when I did the research for this particular bill, I found out that a couple of states have used a modified type of this bill, and they reduced child accidents by 82%. In Florida everybody automatically slows down in front of schools to, for us, 30 kilometres an hour. By having a consistent rate around all the schools, what we found through the research of the various states is that reduction was that drastic and that dramatic.
I think that the consistency the member was talking about, if it was applied across the province, would show that improvement. It becomes a culture. What happens here is, there is an expectation that what we will do is, in our driver education classes, make that part of the expected norm in the culture so that when you get into a car, the first thing you do is recognize that you're in a designated school zone and you drop the speed. That will reduce death and also major injuries around schools. That's one of the things I wanted to bring to his attention.
The second thing I wanted to do was thank the minister for introducing the other piece of the bill, which was to double the fines for speeding in construction zones. Quite frankly, I was very proud of that. It's very sure that people would see these ideas as progressive and impressive for the province of Ontario.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): That concludes the time available for questions and comments. I return to the member for Hamilton East.
Ms. Horwath: I want to thank the members from Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, Halton, Niagara Centre and Brant for their comments on my remarks. But I have to say, I suspect that the members of this Legislature have not taken the time to really review the outstanding issue with the taxicab drivers. I know what it's like. People are getting angry and there's tension and there's anxiety, so you hunker down and you weather the storm.
This is not a time to weather the storm. This is a time to get out there and get familiar with the issue. I raise that because I fear that the characterization that was brought by the member from Glengarry-Prescott-Russell on this scooping issue was not quite right, because what he assumes in his remarks, then, is that the limousine drivers who are from the airport part of the industry have these massive expenses for licensing their cabs, and yet somehow the value of licences in the Toronto industry, in the city industry, are not relevant. But they are relevant because they have extremely high values on those licences as well.
It shouldn't be a matter of who pays -- and certainly there is a differential. There's no doubt about the fact that there is a differential. But in the way that this member talked about the fact that there might be seven or eight or maybe 10 opportunities for a limo driver to be able to have a fare, similarly he's saying that it's OK to have the queuing up of taxis. In effect, those cabs will be reducing the amount of fares they'll be able to have a day on their shift, because they'll be queuing up in the airport, and they'll have to pay 10 bucks to boot for the privilege of queuing up at the airport. And that is one of the problems with this bill.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr. Jim Brownell (Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh): Thank you very much, my friends from the third party. It's great to be here this evening. Certainly, my friends from my caucus, they're always, always supportive and excited when I get on my feet.
We had the opening this evening on this debate from the minister and the parliamentary assistant, my esteemed colleague from Glengarry-Prescott-Russell. Before I make my comments and get into the bill, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the member from Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, my neighbour, for coming to my riding not long ago to look at our highway issue. Being the parliamentary assistant, he took the time, and that's what it's all about, these colleagues taking the time to help us out and to help us understand when problems exist, to bring them back, and certainly to work on them.
I'd like to quote the Minister of Transport. When I heard this quote, I thought to myself, "We have to do something," and I think we are doing something with this bill. It's addressing issues that relate to a transit system that will bring us a transit system into the 21st century. It's looking at a safer transportation network for all, and for all throughout Ontario. It's also easing congestion on our roads. There are certainly important parts of this bill that will do just that, ease the congestion. But I want to get back to the words of the minister: "While Ontario's roads are the safest in North America, they are not safe enough, not when 15,000 people were killed or injured in the last five years while crossing the road. The transit and safety bill introduced today" -- he was speaking February 21 -- "would protect the most vulnerable people in our society -- children and seniors -- by targeting some of the worst driving offences."
Being from the riding of Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh, although my esteemed colleague from Glengarry-Prescott-Russell has a little bit down to the very east of this province, I can say that my riding is right at the east end. I have the opportunity of doing a lot of driving. I try to take the train. Certainly, here in the city I take public transit. I'm not afraid at all of going down into the subway and taking public transit, and supporting our taxi drivers. But I've had a lot of opportunity to drive Highway 401 between my riding and my home at Long Sault and Toronto. I can say I probably have seen every problem in the book when it comes to the issue of safety on our roads. That's really what I would like to speak about tonight, to bring up some of the ideas from this bill that I think are certainly worthy of expressing again. Many of my colleagues have expressed their points from the bill this evening, and I would like to just express some others from the vantage point of where I am or where I was in the community.
I'm excited about the enhancements that this bill has for safety at school crossings. I spent 32½ years in a classroom and had an opportunity of teaching in the city of Cornwall and into the rural area. I can say, with the school crossing guards -- a group of individuals who work in our community, who step off the curb every day thinking, "Am I safe? Will my children whom I escort across those intersections be safe?" I think this bill requires drivers to remain stopped at school crossings until children and crossing guards have left the half of the roadway where vehicles are travelling. It requires school crossing guards to display the stop sign until all children have left the crossing. That's important. These individuals receive very little recognition.
Mr. Kormos: Very little pay.
Mr. Brownell: I just heard from the third party, "very little pay," but I'm talking about the recognition and the support from those people who travel on our public highways. I've heard stories of the windows being cranked down and obscenities being expressed, just disrespect for school crossing guards, so I think that's important.
Mr. Leal: What about the new jobs in Cornwall today? Six hundred and fifty jobs.
Mr. Brownell: Six hundred and fifty new jobs in the city of Cornwall today -- a great announcement, yes. We've been working hard down there on jobs. We've had some problems in the past, but we are working hard down there to overcome those problems.
Getting back to the bill here, I would like to say too that just recently I had an opportunity to go over to Davenport Public School here in the city to take part in a diabetes education program in the school. I was travelling up one of the streets and there were many, many speed bumps along that street, speed bumps that I know municipalities would love to have. We will be lowering speed limits with traffic calming and giving all municipalities the authority to set 30-kilometre-per-hour speed limits where traffic calming is in place. Currently, the authority for this is only in Toronto, and I know that municipalities will be quite in favour and quite supportive and excited about this. I spent 14 years in municipal government in the township of Cornwall and the township of South Stormont, and there certainly have been community groups in the municipalities I served seeking these opportunities to have calming in their communities.
The third thing I'd like to express here, and I can talk from personal experience, is the enhancements in construction zone safety. While my daughter was attending college, to have some financial support, although I was there every bit of the way to support her in her efforts at college, she came home to work. For a couple of summers she worked as a traffic control person. She wanted do this, and I've heard she was very good at it. I saw her doing it. But every morning when she left my house, I was very concerned, very concerned about her work along those highways, especially along the 401. They were paving a long section between Cornwall and Morrisburg in my riding on the 401, and she was a traffic control person on that strip of highway for an extended period of time. She told me many times about how close a vehicle had come to her. She was holding her sign one day and a truck passed, and it was that close to the sign that she was holding.
I have no problems with seeing the doubling of the fines for speeding, creating offences for disobeying traffic control persons and allowing all municipal councils to delegate authority to staff to set speed limits in municipal construction zones -- extremely important. I can state from experience that this is an area that needs an increase in fines. That will indicate to those who are driving on our public highways that these people are there to be respected, people like my daughter Jennifer, who spent those two summers doing what she really wanted to do and doing a good job at it. I was quite proud of her. She came home every evening quite exhausted, because these were long days and very physically dirty projects she was working on because of the asphalt and whatnot, but she really expressed to me safety at that time. When I had the opportunity this evening of getting up to speak, I thought to myself, "I'm going to comment about her work," because she expressed that to me a number of years ago. It's something that has never left my mind, because we were always concerned about her safety.
There are a few other things I would like to comment about too. I am not from northern Ontario, I'm from eastern Ontario, but to my northern Ontario colleagues -- I see we have the member from Thunder Bay-Atikokan here. I know that the Minister of Northern Development and Mines and the member from Sault Ste. Marie, David Orazietti, have talked to me about the enhancements to winter driving safety in northern Ontario with the studded tires. I remember way back, I think it was in 1969, having studded tires on my first car.
Mr. Kormos: What was it?
Mr. Brownell: It was a Buick Skylark.
Mr. Kormos: What year?
Mr. Brownell: 1969.
Mr. Kormos: Brand new?
Mr. Brownell: Brand new. I also helped my father buy one too.
Promoting any enhancements to safety in our province is essential, is important, and this opportunity in northern Ontario, to my colleagues up there, is going to be something you're quite excited about. As a southerner, as a southeasterner, I know that our roads can sometimes get pretty bad with ice and snow and whatnot, but I know you have far, far greater problems in the north with regard to driving conditions,. and the use of studded tires will certainly help there.
There are some other things here: enhancements to driver education and recovering the cost of demerit point interviews. Those drivers who accumulate nine demerit points must attend interviews with driver improvement counsellors. Right now, there is no cost to the drivers, and we're proposing a fee to recover that.
Those are a few of the ideas I'd like to express tonight. I'm delighted to have had this opportunity because I've wanted to talk about road safety, road safety in construction zones, speaking from experience.
I'm very pleased and I just hope that we have support for this bill from all parties in the House and that we can get this through, move on, and move on to many other thing that we're looking at as a government.
The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr. Hudak: I'm pleased to respond to my colleague from one of my favourite-named ridings in the province of Ontario -- but I always have to make sure I'm careful with it -- Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh. Congratulations on the new jobs coming to the community as well. To Cornwall, did you say?
Mr. Hudak: Six hundred new jobs. If Jim Brownell lured those jobs to Cornwall, then he deserves congratulations on single-handedly bringing those 600 jobs to the community.
I always enjoy the member's comments. Obviously, there are some things he spoke about in Bill 169 that members of the PC caucus have also spoken in favour of. The member did not get into the scooping issue. A number of the opposition members have shown significant concern about the approach the government is taking and what appears to have led up to the decision to include that particular change in the bill. Colleagues here have spoken to that and the minister has talked about it as well, though I'm not always sure that we had the entire story presented to the chamber. Nonetheless, I have an opportunity shortly to give further some comment on the anti-scooping issue, as well as other parts of the bill. But as I said a bit earlier, it's always a pleasure to listen to the presentation of the member from Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh.
I had a chance to visit Morrisburg on a number of occasions when I was tourism minister. In fact, I think we had crossed paths at that point in time. Who would have known that a couple of years down the road he would be bringing 600 jobs to Cornwall?
Mr. Kormos: I too listened carefully to the comments made by the member for Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh, Mr. Brownell, on the matter of Bill 169.
As I've indicated, and as our critic Mr. Bisson has indicated, the bill contains stuff that we support. It is regrettable that the minister persists in his refusal to heed the concerns of primarily Toronto taxi drivers. Frankly, I don't know if it's an issue in Ottawa with taxi drivers and the airport. I don't think it is in London, Ontario. There just isn't the amount of traffic to and from the London airport, or Windsor, and certainly not in northern Ontario. Heck, there are no limos at the Sudbury airport or the Timmins airport.
We understand how the bill creates a Highway Traffic Act offence out of a breach of, effectively, a historically municipal bylaw for scoopers in smaller-town Ontario like Welland, like Thorold, like St. Catharines, but it doesn't address the legitimate concern of taxi cab drivers. Our concern is that once this bill is passed, with section 4, those cab drivers are never going to be given any attention whatsoever, that they will have gotten short shrift. That's why we pleaded with the government to sever sections 1 and 4, because section 1 is related.
Let this bill pass with speedy passage: Send sections 1 and 4 back to committee for further hearing. If the amendments are there that would satisfy the taxi cab drivers, that created a parallel regime for them, the New Democrats would endorse speedy passage of that as well.
Mr. Levac: I would ask that the members opposite consider very carefully the safety features in this bill. Within the scope of those safety features, I would say that the bill itself is an extremely important piece of legislation for the people of Ontario, as pointed out by about five or six different private members' bills, in allowing us to encapsulate some of those great ideas and putting them in for the prosperity of those of Ontario.
Mr. Chudleigh: It's always a pleasure to respond to the member from Stormont-Dundas -- is it Chattensborough?
Mr. Chudleigh: There too.
The county of Dundas was the site of the first-discovered McIntosh apple. It was a chance seedling found on the farm of John McIntosh in 1886, 1887, somewhere in there, and being a bit of a horticulturalist, John MacIntosh grafted that seedling, and of course the McIntosh apple has spread around the world. It was first found on that site.
Actually, I saw that old stump. It was a rotten old stump and it's gone now, but it was the original McIntosh tree. I saw that in the early 1960s, the same way the Granny Smith apple was found on Granny Smith's farm in Queensland, Australia.
None of this has anything do with this bill, but it's interesting, I thought. Being an apple person, I thought --
Mr. Levac: How are the frozen pies?
Mr. Chudleigh: The frozen pies are wonderful. We had a great crop this year, and the frozen pies are doing well. I encourage you all to have some for Christmas dinner and Sunday dinners and whenever else you need a good dessert.
The member spoke knowingly and eloquently about this bill, and he made some points about the crossing guards. I don't know why someone would hurl obscenities at a crossing guard who is protecting our youth. That certainly doesn't happen in my community; I've never heard of that happening in my community. My sympathies to the member if it happens in his. I thought it was already a rule that you never enter the intersection until the crossing guard has left the roadway and stepped back up on the curb. I thought that was the law of the land as it now sits; I didn't realize that wasn't. That's certainly the way that most of the traffic that I've ever seen going through near a crossing guard treats a crossing guard.
My time ran out. I spent too much time on apples.
The Acting Speaker: Or not enough.
The member from Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh has two minutes to reply.
Mr. Brownell: I just want to thank the member from Halton, just before I get into my wrap-up, for bringing up the idea that the McIntosh apple originated in my riding, Dundas county. Absolutely: That's why we're so proud of our farmers in Stormont, Dundas and Charlottenburgh, because they've continued the work that John McIntosh started way back in the 1800s.
As I said in my remarks, this bill will bring a safer transportation network to Ontario. I have spoken on the idea of making those roads safer, making those people who work on those roads feel more comfortable as they work. It's also a bill that is going to ease congestion for all road users. We certainly know of gridlock, and those opportunities we have in Ontario now to enhance opportunities of moving people. I really didn't have a whole lot of time to speak on that, but it's certainly going to ease congestion, and it's going to create a transit system here in Ontario that will reflect the 21st century. I know that the honourable Minister of Transport and his parliamentary assistant have been working hard on many issues related to safety, to a system, to easing congestion. It's not easy, but they tackled some of the big issues. They put these big issues into a bill that I think is certainly worthy of supporting by all sides of this House, and I certainly hope that happens.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr. Hudak: I'm pleased to rise to give some further comment on Bill 169 as part of third reading debate on this legislation coming from the Ministry of Transportation. I had the opportunity to provide some so-called two-minute hits, some brief comments, tonight, but I'm pleased to get into the bill in some greater detail on its third reading debate.
I did want to note, though, to my friends from Halton and Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh, that they didn't even note the coincidence that John McIntosh found the first McIntosh apple. I mean, what were the odds of that? I thought that was funny. Come on.
Mr. Hudak: Thank you. Somebody is paying attention. It is quite a coincidence. But that's history for you. Timely coincidences, Mr. Speaker, from whom I won a smile. Good stuff.
There are a number of things Bill 169 will do:
-- increase penalties for cars that ignore pedestrian crossings
-- double speeding fines in construction zones to better protect highway construction workers. I'll get into some of these in a bit more detail.
-- enforce high-occupancy vehicle lanes to encourage car pooling and transit use
-- give police more power to clear accidents and spills faster
-- create new offences for flying vehicle parts that can cause serious injury or death to highway users
-- improve daily commercial vehicle inspection standards by requiring truck drivers to check for more than 70 itemized defects daily, up from the current 23.
One item that's come up for some interesting debate, and I'll talk about it a bit more, is the use of --
Mr. Leal: What about the new jobs in Cornwall?
Mr. Hudak: The member said something about the new jobs in Cornwall. I did not hear the announcement. I've been tied up in the Legislature today. What were the new jobs or what kind of business?
Mr. Leal: A good business -- outstanding -- full of confidence in the folks of Cornwall.
Mr. Hudak: Well, it's all very nice news for Cornwall, and I'm sure that those folks looking to get those 600 jobs will be listening to the Bill 169 commentary tonight.
-- allow the use of studded tires on vehicles in northern Ontario: We'll get into that a bit more. I'm curious for some better understanding of where the dividing line lies.
Mr. Kormos: If they cause no harm, why not?
Mr. Hudak: Fair point.
-- allow land to be dedicated for new carpool lots and transit stations during planning stages. I haven't heard much debate about that item in the bill. The member for Brantford is a very big supporter of that.
Mr. Levac: That was one of my first duties as an MPP.
Mr. Hudak: Was that a private member's bill?
Mr. Levac: I got a carpool lot.
Mr. Hudak: There you go. Carpool lots are important, certainly, for those that are carpooling or taking public transit, and the member for Brantford is a big supporter of carpool lots. He talked about the fact that one of his first accomplishments for Brantford was establishing a needed carpool lot.
-- improve transit commute times by allowing transit vehicles to pre-empt traffic signals, to lengthen a green light or change a red light to green sooner. Again, not a great deal of debate about that item in Bill 169. Maybe that will come up a bit later.
Probably the most contentious item on the docket on Bill 169, to which I still have not received a satisfactory answer from the Minister of Transportation or his parliamentary assistant or really any member opposite, and that is the scoopers law. As my colleague from Niagara Centre said, it's in section 4 of the bill, and also section 1 would need to be reviewed in addition because it's referred to.
Let me describe it a bit more. Basically, the bill, if passed, creates an offence to punish scoopers: illegal taxis that pick up passengers from Pearson International Airport only. Unscrupulous operators have been known to charge unsuspecting passengers for a trip downtown. Under the new law, the driver, the person who arranges a ride or the taxi owner can be fined from $300 to $20,000. Substantial punishment; $20,000 is a lot of money, and that's what the new fine would be. The failure to pay could result in licence suspensions or plate denial at renewal time.
Let me get to a bit of the content, then, as part of my remarks on Bill 169. Before I do that, actually, I've looked at some of the thoughts brought forward during committee hearings. One I always enjoy hearing from is the Ontario Trucking Association; David Bradley representing the OTA. It's certainly a group that I've worked with quite closely on issues like expanding border crossings at Fort Erie and the mid-peninsula corridor, among other issues.
Mr. Bradley had a number of helpful comments on the bill and makes one very important point. First, the helpful comments: "First, with regard to speeding, we" -- meaning the OTA -- "support the introduction of variable speeds. We support the increased fines and penalties for chronic speeders. We approve of and support increasing fines in construction zones. All of those are good measures. The difference in terms of whether they will be symbolic measures or whether they will be effective, in our view, has to do with enforcement, and the level of enforcement of speeds on the 400 series of highways is inadequate," in their view. He goes on, on a very, very important point, because, quite frankly, Bill 169 will not be worth the paper it is written on unless the proper resources are at the disposal of our police forces. Certainly, we've heard all kinds of promises from the Dalton McGuinty government that they are going to hire 1,000 additional police officers, but to date -- and I'll ask the member for Halton if I'm right. To date, has there been a single new police officer hired?
Mr. Chudleigh: Not one, to my knowledge.
Mr. Kormos: No.
Mr. Hudak: Niagara Centre agrees, so I think we have --
Mr. Leal: There are five or six new ones in Peterborough.
Mr. Hudak: The member says there have been some hired in Peterborough, but my understanding is the application process is just currently happening. So I'm not clear how Peterborough would have been able to leapfrog the application process. But here we stand tonight, October 26, and we're past the halfway point of the Dalton McGuinty government and still not a single police officer has been hired to patrol the 400 series highways to help enforce Bill 169, if passed, and certainly the gun crime that has plagued the city of Toronto --
Mr. Chudleigh: Serious.
Mr. Hudak: Serious gun crime; in fact, terrifying.
Mr. Chudleigh: Unprecedented.
Mr. Hudak: And unprecedented gun crime that we've seen in the city of Toronto. Not a single officer has been hired to attack any of these very, very serious concerns. In fact, they've announced the 1,000 new police officers so many times, and reannounced it and reannounced it, they're up to about 7,000 officers now. But in reality, not a single new police officer is patrolling the streets and it remains one of the highlight broken promises of a regime well known for its broken promises.
Certainly, in Niagara -- speaking about the western part of Niagara, the southern part of Niagara, where the roads are quite long -- sometimes the back roads don't have the attention that they require from police officers. It's a complaint we deal with in the constituency office on a regular basis, that there weren't enough police officers to attend the scene of a crime. I know that in the Niagara region new police officers would be received very, very well, but there has been some criticism from the chief and from some local municipal leaders saying that the government's commitment is absolutely inadequate. So we will see what happens with the new police officers, if they ever do arrive. But Mr. Bradley will make the point, as he did there at committee on Wednesday, September 14, that no matter what the positive provisions may be in Bill 169, they won't be worthwhile unless they actually are enforced and backed up by real resources.
I think my colleague from Halton was talking about the gun crime here in Toronto. What are we up to now? I think 44 homicides in the city of Toronto, which is a sad record.
Mr. Chudleigh: Mostly young people.
Mr. Hudak: Mostly young people, cut down in their prime, let alone the young people and senior citizens who are terrified to walk about in the city of Toronto. We have seen an extremely and sadly inadequate response. It's been the summer of the gun in Toronto and a summer vacation for Premier Dalton McGuinty.
There was some announcement the other day, but if I understood it correctly, it was more or less just moving some police officers from one area to another, robbing Peter to pay Paul, if you will, and not actually increasing the number of police officers who are there on the job, on the beat.
Mr. Bradley had some very insightful comments, but I think that one principle I wanted to enforce is making sure that the enforcement ability is actually there to back up the provisions in Bill 169, if it passes.
Things like increasing penalties for cars that ignore pedestrian crossings are all well and good, and I think that aspect of the bill will be welcomed by the vast majority of Ontarians, particularly pedestrians. But if there aren't the police officers there to enforce that provision, one wonders, why pass the bill if you don't have the officers there to enforce it?
Doubling speeding fines in construction zones to better protect highway construction workers: I think I recall this as being part of a previous bill by the Progressive Conservative government. It's an initiative we had brought forward as well. I could be wrong, but it is my recollection.
I've always enjoyed the signs when I'm travelling in the States -- I don't know if "enjoyed" is the right word, but I found remarkable and effective the signs that would say, "Please drive slowly. My daddy works here. My mummy works here," to reinforce to us travelling through those zones that there are people who could be vulnerable to speeding cars as part of their job. I think it is very effective. My guess would be it's very effective in reducing speeding in those areas.
Enforcing high-occupancy vehicle lanes to encourage carpooling and transit use: It remains to be seen how effective this measure is going to be. Certainly, when I'm travelling back and forth to the riding and other parts of the province, I'm seeing some of these lanes being constructed along the 403, and I think maybe along the 401. There is a lot of roadwork happening that appears to be of this nature on the 401.
Mr. Leal: A lot of new work on the 401.
Mr. Hudak: But it remains to be seen if the new lanes will actually decrease congestion or increase it. Are they, in fact, going to be new lanes, or are they taking existing lanes and just turning them into high-occupancy vehicle lanes? There could be a concern that you're actually going to jam up those who are driving alone and that a significant number of people will actually have a longer commute to work or commute home to see their families.
I remember when I was living in Seattle they had the high-occupancy lanes and had a regular problem with people putting mannequins in their car to try to get down through those lanes.
Mr. Hudak: Well, I don't know what they were exactly. I didn't do it. I was a mere student at the time. There were about six of us crammed into the car to get from place to place. One of us had a car and the others didn't, so we were OK on that. None of us were mannequins, I can assure you, although sometimes on the way home we maybe felt like it. But certainly on the way there we seemed very much alive and well. But Seattle had that problem. It's actually been a few years and I don't know how they solved that problem, but, again, it gets to the enforcement issue.
Mr. Kormos: That lonely commute is going to get tougher and tougher.
Mr. Hudak: It could be. That's what I worry about. I'm an unabashed supporter of increasing highway capacity in the province of Ontario, expanding the 400 series of highways, moving the 407 farther to the east, building the mid-peninsula corridor, for example. I'm happy to see the Red Hill Creek Expressway moving forward as well. Continuing to expand --
Mr. Levac: The 24.
Mr. Hudak: The 24 in the Brantford area -- another one.
I believe in increasing the highway capacity, not trying to strangle it down to make that long snake of traffic that we see every day heading into and then out of the GTA even longer. So it remains to be seen how these HOV lanes will do. I think some jurisdictions have tried them and then rejected them. I guess we'll see.
Giving the police the power to clear accidents and spills faster: I spoke earlier about this. My colleague Steve Gilchrist, the member for Scarborough East whom we served with for a good 10 years, had promoted this project. He was described earlier as the fuzzy and huggable member for Scarborough East, Steve Gilchrist. I think he'll be pleased to see this provision continuing on this bill.
Mr. Leal: Charming.
Mr. Hudak: The member for Peterborough wasn't here.
Mr. Leal: I was a city councillor, and he'd come to visit.
Mr. Hudak: OK. I was going to say, I didn't know if you were a fan of the late-night TV and watching the goings-on.
Allowing for the use of studded tires in northern Ontario -- I'll ask this of my colleagues opposite: Is northern Ontario actually defined in legislation, is it the same boundaries as pertain to northern Ontario for other projects, like the northern Ontario heritage fund or the northern Ontario travel grant, or is northern Ontario left open to regulation and interpretation? We're not sure, and maybe we'll hear further debate or responses from the minister on the definition of northern Ontario.
But if the case is made that there's new studded tire technology that is not harmful to our roads, to our highways, then why limit it to northern Ontario? If you're driving down the back roads of Welland or Wainfleet, trying to get home late at night during a snowstorm, why wouldn't studded tires be made available to these families in my riding? I had the great honour of serving as the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. I had a chance to drive across the northern highways. I was minister of the north for a while, and it was a fantastic experience. I can understand the unique conditions on those roads, the distances and the weather conditions, very well and can appreciate the importance of this measure. I certainly would hear about it from time to time when I was in the north. But again, if the description I hear from the government is true, that these tires are in no way harmful to our provincial roads or local roads, then why not allow them for use across the province of Ontario as a whole? That's not clear. If they do it by regulation, maybe eventually Fort Erie will be part of northern Ontario; I don't know. But perhaps during this debate we'll get a real answer on the northern Ontario issue.
My friend and colleague the member for Durham, Mr. O'Toole, is our transportation critic. You've seen him in action in this chamber.
Mr. Kormos: I sure have.
Mr. Hudak: No doubt, and he'd spice things up if he were here tonight. I could do an impersonation, but I don't think I will. But I do have a press release from Mr. O'Toole regarding what members of the opposition have described as an offensive part of the legislation that we, the opposition members, have asked to be taken out of the bill, to be separated from the bill. Let the other good things of the bill move forward, but we want more discussion and an understanding of what the minister is trying to do in section 4 of the bill. This release is dated October 26, today:
"Durham MPP John O'Toole said today he will urge the provincial government not to pass a controversial new `anti-scooping' law governing taxis in Ontario.
"Bill 169 was the subject of a protest" -- in fact, many protests -- "of taxi drivers at Queen's Park ... because it introduces new legislation against scooping fares. Fines would be as high as $20,000 dollars," which seems to be extremely high for this type of bill and legislation. "In protesting Bill 169, the cabbies" -- mostly Toronto cabbies -- "warned that they do not have a level playing field because limousines can take fares to and from Pearson International Airport, while taxis can only drop people off at the airport and leave empty.
"The official opposition is asking that sections of Bill 169 affecting the taxi and limousine industry not be proclaimed until this issue" is resolved.
Mr. O'Toole has given some thought to this, obviously. He has a solution: In his view, "The issue should be resolved at the municipal level," through the Municipal Act or the City of Toronto Act.
Mr. Leal: Downloading.
Mr. Hudak: The member calls it downloading. Some might actually call it giving municipalities more authority. You guys try to walk both sides of that argument.
The other great concern that's been brought up with respect to the scooping law -- in fact, I think some of the Toronto cab drivers brought that forward themselves -- is the fundraiser that took place for the benefit of the Minister of Transportation by the limousine drivers.
Mr. Chudleigh: Can you buy legislation in this province?
Mr. Hudak: The member asks a good question, and far be it from me to say. But to me the appearance is very, very unfortunate. Perhaps if the minister wanted to make sure that that appearance was no longer there, he would actually take these sections out of the bill, take a sober second look at them and bring them back, as Mr. O'Toole suggests, through a couple of other mechanisms to make sure that what's being brought forward as legislation is being brought forward because it's well thought out policy, and not for any other reason related to fundraising events.
Mr. Hillel Gudes made a very passionate presentation to the committee on behalf of the Toronto taxi industry. I would encourage members who have not had the opportunity to go ahead and read that and give some sober second thought to the provisions of the bill that are particularly unappealing and come from a questionable birth. I think if we had a chance to look at them anew and look for other mechanisms to fix them, we'd have a good Bill 169 and would find a way to better address the limousine and taxi issue with respect to Pearson International Airport.
The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr. Kormos: The member for Erie−Lincoln raises an interesting point about the exclusive multiple-person-vehicle lane. The people who are reflecting on supporting these provisions maybe should test it or check it against real life. I come up that QEW darn near every day. The trucks restrict themselves to the second and third lanes -- the middle lane and the right-hand so-called slow lane -- so think about what's going to happen. One of the problems on the QEW and 400-series highways, as you well know, is people who are in the wrong lane and are not going fast enough in that lane. This is going to force, in my view, a considerable number of people from the passing lane, where they should be, into what have become the truck lanes, which are the middle lane and the third lane, the slow lane. The volume of those trucks is incredible. They're big. The truckers are under incredible pressures. I'm not going to criticize individual truckers, but you and I both know, and Mr. Hudak certainly knows, there's nothing scarier than being in that lane and seeing a truck slowly drift over into your lane because the driver's been driving for a big chunk of time, trying to grind out a buck to support his family. That's pretty scary stuff, especially at 110, 115, 120 kilometres an hour.
I'm concerned. The government says it wants to enhance safety, and I understand the rationale for the driver-plus-at-least-one-passenger type of proposition. It's very California. But, quite frankly, the lay of the land in California is far different than it is here in terms of the number of lanes available, the types of commuting and the types of traffic you see on their highways. That QEW from Fort Erie up to Toronto, up to the Gardiner, is all about bringing truck traffic in from the United States to travel on the 401. You'd better be very careful.
Mr. Levac: I just wanted to read a list of people who have expressed support for this bill in second reading. The member from Waterloo−Wellington, the member from Nepean−Carleton, the member from Haldimand− Norfolk−Brant, the member from Simcoe North, the member from Oxford, the member from Erie−Lincoln, who just spoke, the member from Oak Ridges, the member from York North, the member from Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, the members from Leeds−Grenville, Haliburton−Victoria−Brock, Barrie−Simcoe−Bradford, the member from Dufferin−Peel−Wellington−Grey, who is also the leader of the official opposition, and the members from Simcoe Grey and Kitchener−Waterloo have all supported the bill in second reading, which means to me that they're planning to vote in third reading for the very same purposes.
Except I would say one thing, in fairness -- I could probably make a list of other people in favour of the bill -- and that is that the job of the opposition is to point out where they believe some changes should be made, could be made or will be made, in fairness to the opportunities, and that is exactly what they're supposed to do. I just wanted to make sure that everyone was quite clear that that number of people have voted in favour of this bill and have indicate that, as far as I can see, they're planning to vote for it again. So we've got first reading passage, second reading passage, and now we're looking at whether or not the House in this Legislature deems the legislation good enough to pass.
Hopefully, the safety measures that are outlined, which they're all supporting, would have the capacity to indicate that we want safer roads in Ontario, that the Highway Traffic Act continually -- and I want to repeat that -- continually needs review, update and improvement for the safety of the citizens we serve. Anything we can do in this Legislature to do that, we should be compelled to do.
Mr. Chudleigh: I'd like to point out to the member opposite that second reading is a reading in principle and then it goes to committee. In committee hearings, some of the things in the bill that we have concerns about should be changed, or we might think they'd be changed. This bill came back for third reading, and very few of the concerns that we expressed in second reading, although we passed it in principle -- nothing had been changed in committee. I believe all of the amendments we put forward were defeated. So the vote, when it comes on third reading, will not be a vote on principle; it will be a vote as to whether or not we think this bill is a proper piece of legislation to help govern the people of Ontario.
One of the things in this bill that gives me great concern is the tire studs that you're putting on to tires in northern Ontario. Do you know what that does? That splits Ontario into two groups, and when you split Ontario into two groups, you're disenfranchising, you're against one part of the province, and that's a very dangerous precedent to set in any piece of legislation throughout Ontario.
The northern ridings -- yes sure, they've got snow up there, but they also have snow in southern Ontario. You drive in the snowbelt, from Caledon to Owen Sound and out to Lake Huron, and every night you get snow out there, every night the roads are packed, every night you're driving over a thin layer of snow. Studs in tires would be a very good thing to have. It would be a safety thing to have. It would make those people in southern Ontario equally as safe on the roads as they will be in northern Ontario.
That was a small amendment that you could have brought in during committee hearings, but no, this government didn't. This government doesn't believe in listening to other people. It doesn't believe in making legislation better. It doesn't believe in trying to get along in a co-operative spirit. As pointed out by the member opposite just a few minutes ago, you almost suggest that we can be taken for granted. So I am greatly disappointed in your comments.
Mr. Lalonde: I just heard the member opposite from Halton. I can't understand when he says that this government has not listened to the people. We have consulted the people, and the people of the north have been asking for permission to have studded tires for years. You people didn't want to listen to what the people up north wanted. Had you ever lived up north, you would see the difference in the conditions they have to live through every day during the winter. Studded tires are going to be part of this bill for the benefit and safety of all the people traveling in northern Ontario.
I just want to come back to one of the points that was brought to our attention by a member from the other side, from the official opposition. When they mentioned that our minister had a fundraiser organized by the limousine drivers of Mississauga, or the people who have licences from the Greater Toronto Airport Authority, that is completely false. This year, I was at the fundraiser, at which our Premier was the speaker. There could have been four drivers in attendance at that dinner. Last year, it was the same thing. True, they probably raised a certain amount of money, but are you not having those fundraisers with your leader? I'm sure every party is having them. So please, be fair with everyone. This fundraiser is run for your party, it's run for the NDP and it is run for the Liberal Party. And the people enjoy coming out. They don't have to be forced to come in and listen to what the Premier has to say. Very often, those people go there because they want to know if there are any new developments in the taxi industry.
The Acting Speaker: We return now to the member for Erie−Lincoln, and you have two minutes to reply.
Mr. Hudak: I appreciate the comments by all my colleagues in the assembly this evening.
The member from Niagara Centre and I have a similar viewpoint. We make that trip on a regular basis from Niagara to the city of Toronto for work. Quite frankly, a significant and growing number of my constituents, particularly in the west end of Niagara, are making that trip. I worry whether these high-occupancy vehicles lanes have been thought through. The member for Niagara Centre brought up some important points. I worry about highway capacity being squeezed and gridlock actually becoming quite a bit longer than exists today. Certainly Ontario is not California when it comes to highway capacity. It's a different situation, and I don't think it's a fair comparison for the government members to make.
I had referred a bit to the committee hearings. Mr. Hillel Gudes had come forward on September 14 and made a good point. He countered what government members have said. He said in response to some of the government members, "You're claiming that this is province-wide legislation. Can you show us one report, any research that says there's a scooping problem in Fenelon Falls or Elora or all those places? The scooping problem is contained to Toronto and the airport and maybe Mississauga.... Don't talk to us about province-wide. This is a smoke-screen." That's somebody in the industry.
He says also, "... it does not belong in the Highway Traffic Act. We heard that before during the day. It's a licensing issue. Licensing issues are traditionally addressed in the Municipal Act."
"It does not belong in the Highway Traffic Act." We've heard that during the day. It's a licensing issue. Licensing issues are traditionally addressed in the Municipal Act," so it should be the same.
He also talks about the heavy penalty of the $20,000 fine when it's only $5,000 for probably a more serious crime, driving without insurance.
Mr. Kamul Trabulsey had come forward on the same day and had some very strong comments as well. My friend had just commented about the fundraiser. Mr. Trabulsey had a different view. Again, he's in this business. He said, "There was $200,000 paid -- I have the proof here in the newspaper -- to Mr. McGuinty and the transport minister. The money had been issued after they had made the promise that they would do a law for the airport." They promised they would do this. So there you have it right in Hansard.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr. Kormos: I'm pleased to finally get around to this. As you know, Gilles Bisson, our critic from Timmins-James Bay, is going to be doing the one-hour leadoff. Now I regret having asked Ms. Horwath to get unanimous consent to set that down because I'm enthused now. I've been provoked by comments from every part of this House.
First of all, I'm angry. I'm angry, because most of the ideas in this bill are Dave Levac's. Did the minister give him any credit? No, not one mention, not one gesture of gratitude. Dave Levac authors some of the good ideas in here. Dave Levac isn't responsible for the rather irresponsible failure to impose parallel restrictions on limo drivers that the government imposes on cab drivers. Dave Levac's not responsible for that.
Interjection: Pat Hoy.
Mr. Kormos: Pat Hoy's another one. But does Harinder Takhar give them any credit? No. Do they get any of the minister's salary? No. Do they have access to the minister's corporate credit card? No. Have they been to Bigliardi's, either of them, with the minister over the course of the last month and a half? No.
Mr. Leal: No, Swiss Chalet.
Mr. Kormos: Oh, we learned about the myth of Swiss Chalet. Don't bring that up, Mr. Leal. Remember the quote? "It was the rare occasion that I indulged in the luxury of Swiss Chalet," Dwight Duncan says, and when I got the phone call from the Premier's office, why it's only a few days later that the $70 steaks are exposed. So, please, don't bring up Mr. Duncan's shortcomings. He would not be pleased with you, Mr. Leal, for having something generated and provoked in another observation about gluttony of the highest order in the most expensive restaurants at the taxpayers' expense. Mr. Leal, I insist. Your job is to protect Mr. Duncan, not to continue to subject him to the vicious attacks on his abuses of his budget. Mr. Leal, I caution you. Duncan has a temper, and you will suffer the wrath of it, should you continue to bring up his expenditures.
Mr. Kormos: But far be it from me to censor you -- as Mr. Leal gets himself back into Hansard with yet another interjection.
I can't believe these people, Speaker. They're supposed to circle the wagons around their own. They're supposed to protect them rather than bringing up these issues. We had almost forgotten about Duncan's $70 steaks in Brussels. We almost forgot about the Twix bars and the $9 bottle of Diet Coke. I mean, come on: You eat $70 steaks, and then you try to compensate by saying, "But give me the Diet Coke, and no cream in the coffee"? I'm one of those myself; I acknowledge it.
Look, I want to talk about the studded tires, because I'm intrigued. I have no doubt that the manufacturers of studded tires say that they won't cause damage to the road, because they clearly want to expand their market. I similarly am convinced that studded tires improve traction and create safer winter driving. I have no doubt in saying that. Understand, though, that using studded tires, just like using snow tires, in areas where the roads are primarily dry and asphalt doesn't enhance your safety; it doesn't. They're useful only in the ice/snow conditions that they're designed for. So there's some trade-off there.
I'm not going to tell northerners not to use studded tires if the government is prepared to let them, but I am going to repeat the concern of the New Democratic Party about the fact that the claims of the manufacturers may not be as 100% sure as they appear to be. The manufacturer has an inherent interest in inflating their claim. So what I'm saying to the government is this: If and when municipalities in northern Ontario demonstrate, with the growth in use of studded tires, a similar growth in the state of road disrepair, is this government then going to accept some of the responsibility for that additional cost?
But I go one further: If in fact studded tires don't cause road damage, why is it that northerners have exclusive use of them? Because the argument, by only allowing northerners, was the acknowledgement that there was some damage or impact, therefore we minimize it by restricting it to the north. So you can bet your boots that every one of us from south of Sudbury and North Bay is going to be getting calls. I'll acknowledge that in Welland, winters are heavy snow and occasional ice, but relatively mild compared to the rest of Ontario. Heck, if you live out near the 401, if you're commuting in the Woodstock-London area -- you know that stretch of 401, the killer stretch? -- you would sure as heck want studded tires on some of those icy winter days, because there are whole areas of black ice. You get out there from time to time too, don't you, Speaker? I'm assuming its on the black ice that the studded tire, again, is going to give you a little more control. So if the studded tire doesn't cause damage, why isn't everybody in Ontario being allowed to use it? Or, in fact, do they cause damage?
I'm going to ask my friends down at Groff Tire on Niagara Street. I've been buying tires from them ever since I've been driving. It's a long stretch of time. Mind you, they've been in business for 50 years; they celebrated their 50th anniversary this year. It's a second generation now running it. Mr. Hudak knows them as well. They're good, good people. Old Mr. Groff -- and I don't say that in any deprecating way -- but senior Mr. Groff has been a very active member of the Welland community, a very healthy entrepreneur. He provides significant employment.
It's a unionized shop, did you know that, Mr. Hudak? You buy tires at Groff Tire, you get them installed at Groff Tire on Niagara Street, and it's union working women and men who are installing your tires, who are balancing your wheels. That's no small part of the many reasons that I am a committed and absolute patron and customer of Groff Tire. I trust him. You can't get a better deal. They handle a wide range of top-name quality tires and are competitive with anything in Toronto or even the box stores. The sad reality is, though, that small businesses like Groff Tire are very much at risk because of the box stores, you know that, the Wal-Mart types of operations.
Now, I've got mud and snows, the proverbial all-season tires, on my pickup truck, but I use the pickup truck primarily -- it's the old pickup truck. Gosh, it's about 10 or 11 years old, and it's got the mud and snow tires. I use the pickup truck during the summer, because with a pickup truck, the rear end gets pretty light. Mr. Hudak knows that. He's got one of those big -- what do you call that, an Avalanche?
Mr. Hudak: Chevy Avalanche.
Mr. Kormos: It's a big pickup truck.
Mr. Kormos: Please, Speaker, I'm trying to address this matter.
Tim Hudak's Chevy Avalanche -- I'm envious, because it's a beautiful truck. You can't buy one of those for less than $50,000 unless your wife works at General Motors and you get the employee discount. But it's a beautiful, beautiful truck, and I love it.
The fact is, though, that I've got my 11-year-old Chevy S-10, and it's going to have to do. But the thing is, I drive that in the summer because it has the light rear end, and I'm going to use my Buick in the winter because it's got the front-wheel drive. Some people say, "What are you doing?" Mind you, that's a 1991 Buick; that's 15 years old too. So I've got to take the 1991 Buick and get that on the road because it's front-wheel drive. So for the commute from Welland to Toronto, I use the Buick.
Groff Tire has the rubber on all these vehicles. The guy is just plain downright trustworthy. I'm telling you that it's worth the drive to Welland -- it's just the like haircuts at Steve Baltich's in Welland South -- if you want good quality tires, tires properly matched to your vehicle, because Groff knows their tires. They know their vehicles, they know the tires, and they know the type of driving that you do. Look, you can trust Groff Tire. If there's a problem, they fix it. If you're their customer, they take care of you. I tell you that we in Welland are proud of that business. We're proud of their workers -- hard-working, unionized workers -- and we're proud of the many years of service -- half a century -- they've provided to folks across Niagara region. I exhort people to do as I do and buy from Groff Tire. They won't be disappointed.
I haven't talked to the Groffs or any of their staff about studded tires -- certainly they haven't had them in stock -- but I'm going to make a point of doing that, because if anybody knows about studded tires, Groffs do. They do their homework; they know their stuff.
You know that as House leader for the NDP, I wrote to Mr. Bradley on October 25. I wrote: "You know that sections 1 and 4 of schedule A of Bill 169 have been extremely contentious with taxi drivers. In fact, taxi drivers are mad as hell about these sections and the lack of controls on limousine drivers who `scoop' fares from taxi drivers.
"At our House leaders' meetings on October 20, 2005, I proposed a severance of these sections from the bill so that New Democrats could then agree to a vote on the remainder of Bill 169 after one sessional day of debate. I make this same proposal to you again today.
"New Democrats cannot support section 1 and 4 of schedule A without similar and parallel restrictions on limousine drivers. A severance of these sections is necessary so that they can be sent back to committee for further consideration and amendment. Similarly a severance of these sections will facilitate the speedy progress of Bill 169 through third reading."
And "Sincerely yours," I wrote.
We pleaded with the government to please sever sections 1 and 4, so that the rest of this bill, which has stuff that we're not about to oppose, can proceed to become law. But we're not about to support a bill that contains sections that discriminate so thoroughly against hard-working taxi drivers here in Toronto and the Toronto area. It's just plain wrong, and New Democrats can have nothing to do with it. I tell you that and you can count on that one.
I'll have more to say when I'm able to resume the floor the next time this bill is called.
The Acting Speaker: It being 9:30 p.m., this House stands adjourned until tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.
The House adjourned at 2130.