LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Wednesday 28 April 2021 Mercredi 28 avril 2021
Report continued from volume A.
Moving Ontarians More Safely Act, 2021 / Loi de 2021 visant à assurer à la population ontarienne des déplacements plus sûrs
Continuation of debate on the motion for second reading of the following bill:
Bill 282, An Act in respect of various road safety matters / Projet de loi 282, Loi concernant diverses questions de sécurité routière.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate?
Mr. Faisal Hassan: It’s an opportunity for me to rise again and to speak on behalf of the decent, hard-working people of York South–Weston, to rise this evening to speak to Bill 282, entitled Moving Ontarians More Safely Act, 2021.
Now, I must admit that when I first read the title of the bill, I had thoughts of transportation and community and pedestrian safety. I imagined that in my riding of York South–Weston, a designated hot spot—according to Toronto Public Health, it is one at high risk of COVID transmission. Mr. Speaker, essential workers climb up on crowded buses as they travel to and from work, from work and home. A north and south public transit system is badly needed so workers can move about Ontario safely.
But in this bill this evening, ironically, on April 28, the National Day of Mourning for workers who have lost their lives, been injured or suffered illnesses because of their work, we are not talking about how they can be safer. We, instead, are looking at a bill that talks in a general way of road safety. I’m sure all of us in this Legislature are in agreement on the importance of road safety. Here in Toronto, we have some of the busiest and heaviest-travelled roads. Drivers and pedestrians and cyclists are at a constant risk of accident or injury. But this bill isn’t really what Ontarians want to be talking about, as we are now in the grip of the third wave of a deadly pandemic. They would rather their elected representatives are standing in the Ontario Legislature and talking about how essential workers and those front-line heroes that keep Ontario moving, to borrow from the bill’s title, should be protected and how their health and safety and the health and safety of their families should be a top priority.
Mr. Speaker, a government hopefully carefully plans which bills to introduce, and it should be based on priorities. Governments should ask themselves what exactly is needed in Ontario right now that citizens want urgently addressed and what legislation is needed to help protect those citizens during this pandemic, right here and right now.
Well, Mr. Speaker, Bill 282, Moving Ontarians More Safely, has set out in schedule 1 to make changes to the Highway Traffic Act. The minister has changed the definition of what a power-assisted bicycle means. Now, I am no expert in this particular field, and I don’t personally own a power-assisted bicycle, but I will give the government the benefit of the doubt that it was time to update and make changes to the Highway Traffic Act to reflect what I personally see on the streets of York South–Weston as an increased use of bicycles, both powered and not. People are looking for cheaper and healthier forms of transportation as they travel about in the city, and I don’t blame them. I previously mentioned the overcrowded TTC buses, where people often have to wait for the next bus because the one they want is full or they aren’t willing to risk their health due to the possible COVID transmission. My heart goes out to the TTC drivers who have to drive these crowded buses and who to this date have not been prioritized for COVID vaccines, as they should be, with a responsible government with a proper COVID response.
However, let me get back to the e-bikes, or power-assisted bicycles, since that is what is on the agenda this evening. Speaker, e-bikes in fact were first regulated federally in 2001. In Ontario—where we are often late to the game—we were among the last provinces to legislate the use of electric bicycles on the road.
The province of Ontario allows you to drive an e-bike without a licence, and you’re not required to have insurance. That has not changed in Bill 282. By not requiring a licence or insurance or registration, you cannot claim accident benefits for treatment or rehabilitation, whether you are a pedestrian or a rider, unless your accident involves a motor vehicle.
Someone operating a power-assisted vehicle does not have to wear a helmet, and the bike is limited to a maximum speed of 32 kilometres per hour. That is a pretty good speed for an e-bike.
So, from my reading, e-bikes are a good form of transportation, but the responsibility of operating them is a big one.
This bill is looking to lower the age of operating a 32-kilometre-per-hour, power-assisted bicycle from 16 to 14 years old. No licence, no required training, no insurance— now a lower age. While I believe the voting age should be lowered from 18 to 16, I am undecided if lowering the age of a power-assisted device is the best move. That is what this bill does. I’m wondering what consultation took place, what studies were done and what other region has similar age requirements. Perhaps the move is the right one, but I don’t have all the data. I’m just seeing this for the first time in this bill that is named Moving Ontarians More Safely. I am all in favour of moving safely, but this seems instead to be moving Ontarians faster.
Mr. Speaker, our infrastructure in York South–Weston is such that it is not really pedestrian- or e-bike-friendly; I will say that it isn’t public-transit-friendly, as well, as we are underserved for our residents. I would like to see this government make Ontario safe by improving our infrastructure and investing in and expanding public transit in order to get less people on the roads and into an efficient and, ideally, green public transit system. We need increased capacity and more frequent service on our major bus routes—along with more stops. That is what would move York South–Weston safely.
This bill also, in schedule 1, looks to make amendments to the Highway Traffic Act to strengthen penalties for racing and stunt driving by motor vehicles. Again, these are issues to be addressed, and no one is in favour of dangerous activities on the roads that potentially cause accidents and cost lives, but how about a bill that recognizes the fact that during this pandemic, in Canada traffic deaths went down by 34% and traffic-related injuries also decreased? Ontario was moving more safely, as there were so many vehicles simply not on our highways, as schools and businesses shut down due to the pandemic. In the greater Toronto area, there was a 30% decrease in crashes.
So as cars sat in driveways or on city streets, and with a dramatic drop in accidents, one would think that automobile insurance rates would drop accordingly. That has not happened. Industry experts confirm that we are paying higher rates than we should be, as insurance companies are making record profits.
York South–Weston residents and, indeed, most Ontarians would like to see the government take steps to reduce the high costs of auto insurance in the greater Toronto area by ending postal code discrimination and mandating a COVID-19 rebate and reduction in rates that accordingly reflect data on lower automobile usage and lower rates of accidents during this pandemic. That is something I would rather be debating this evening, Mr. Speaker, but here we are, and Bill 282 is the government’s priority for debate.
It is worth noting for historical purposes that a great many of the provisions in this bill are provisions the official opposition has advocated for over the past 10 years. The official opposition has raised these issues with the Liberal government and with the current government now sitting across from us here. We have long advocated for tougher penalties for stunt driving, for instance. We have spoken of the need to curtail the aggressive driving actions taken by some on our roads today. The official opposition has talked of the dangers of drivers opening their doors into oncoming cyclists; the phrase “dooring” is used. That reckless and dangerous behaviour needs to be reported and enforced. Providing safety camera streetcar enforcement is something we’ve long been in favour of.
As well, the towing industry is in dire need of regulation, and we have brought that forward. In fact, with respect to the towing industry, a recent poll by the Canadian Automobile Association was released, saying that 90% of Ontario drivers want some form of provincial regulation such as tow truck licensing, certification and provincial oversight. The towing industry has been in the news a great deal and not in a good way. According to the CAA study commissioned last April, only one in five Ontario drivers currently feels very protected by the current towing system.
In May of last year, York Regional Police said that four organized crime groups are fighting for shares of the business in that region. The Premier promised last June to put together a task force to review and reform the towing industry, vowing “to all the bad actors out there, my message is very clear, the party’s over, we’re coming for you, we’ll catch you, and we’ll lock you up.” Strong words from the Premier; I’m not seeing those strong words reflected in towing amendments in Bill 282. The opportunity was there, very much like the opportunity was there to table a bill that will give Ontarians the pandemic assistance they really need and the vaccines, paid sick days and a COVID response that truly keeps Ontarians moving safely and keeps Ontarians safe.
Let us look at what is in Bill 282 regarding changes to the towing industry. Bill 282, Moving Ontarians More Safely Act, 2021, enacts the Towing and Storage Safety and Enforcement Act that looks to enable the regulation of the towing services industry and the vehicles storage industry—two industries that have been plagued with misconduct and violence. The misconduct and violence surrounding the towing industry is well-documented and has been in the news and the subject of investigations and reports. Those news reports have documented a turf battle in the towing industry that has seen murders, assaults, threats and shootings in the greater Toronto area, and has brought the arrest or suspension of police officers in corruption-related investigations.
The current system leaves drivers vulnerable to fraud in a towing system that they should have confidence in. Drivers finding themselves in an automobile accident are dealing with enough trauma and stress without worrying about if they can trust the tow truck company to be looking out for their best interests.
This past summer, Toronto police announced that several Toronto police officers have been suspended while an investigation went on into what police spokesperson Meaghan Gray called “very active” investigation into tow truck industry corruption.
Mr. Speaker, I spoke earlier about how drivers should be getting relief from the insurance industry because they are driving less and accidents are dramatically lower. Well, I would have hoped that Bill 282’s measures around the towing industry would have been stronger to rein in a troubled industry that consumers don’t trust and where actions like fraudulent activities actually drive up insurance rates. The Toronto Star reported that industry insiders stated that a driver can earn sometimes $2,000 a day through fraudulent kickbacks from physiotherapy clinics, body shops, car rentals and storage facilities. Fraud warnings have been growing for years. Ten years ago the Ontario Auto Insurance Anti-Fraud Task Force noted that insurance costs had risen $2.4 billion for auto collisions despite the fact that individuals injured and severity of injuries went down in numbers.
Tow truck industry fraud costs all of us, and I see very little in this bill that does anything to address this. As well, I have not seen the task force report that the tough-talking Premier boasted of last summer.
According to a June 22, 2020, news story on the tow truck industry, the transportation minister, who tabled this bill, had “no comment” when asked about escalating violence in the towing industry. The CAA task force into the towing industry made a statement that the transportation minister should listen to and comment on. The CAA stated, “The existing approaches to addressing road safety, consumer protection and other concerns related to the towing industry have led to an inconsistent and confusing patchwork of requirements and enforcement levels.... This inconsistent approach can help facilitate fraud.”
Speaker, Bill 282 does not go nearly far enough to effect real change in the towing industry. What it does do is to create restricted towing zones in which only authorized certificate holders may provide service. That appears to be a step in the right direction, but it relies on prescribed municipalities to create those zones. The CAA was one group of many to propose that imposing provincial licensing standards rather than a patchwork of municipal rules was the way to go to ensuring a properly regulated towing industry.
So the Towing and Storage Safety and Enforcement Act is actually enabling legislation. The regulations could be years away; therefore, whether this act actually stops unethical behaviour, misconduct and violence within the towing industry, we won’t really know or see right away.
That is why I would sooner be debating bills that can improve and protect people’s lives in Ontario now. The government has the power to make real change in this province with paid sick days and paid time off for essential workers to receive their vaccines. And for hard-hit, high-risk communities such as York South–Weston, they could vaccinate people through providing mobile vaccine pop-ups and through establishing a permanent vaccine facility right in our community in York South–Weston, which we don’t have at the moment.
Let us discuss what else Bill 282 does and doesn’t do, Mr. Speaker. My colleagues in the north often talk about and draw important attention to the fact that northern roads are dangerous and not at all well maintained. There is zero in this bill entitled Moving Ontarians More Safely that addresses the substandard privatized winter road maintenance. We have heard so many complaints, particularly in the north. Surely, Mr. Speaker, our northern Ontarians deserve the protection of safe driving during winter conditions. Shouldn’t that be a priority when the Minister of Transportation speaks about moving Ontarians safely? Or is there an imaginary line in this province where this ends?
Speaking of northern Ontario, Bill 282 does nothing to address concerns raised by smaller and independent truck fleets in the north faced with burdensome insurance rates. This bill could have done this. This government could have made real, positive changes. They chose not to.
High-speed driving and penalties around those dangerous actions are welcome and overdue. As I mentioned, the official opposition has tried to make progress on this before with the previous Liberal and Conservative governments. However, ironically, while this government speak out of one side of their mouth of discouraging high-speed driving, the other side of their mouth wants to raise the speed limits to 110 kilometres. Anyone who drives knows that whatever the posted speed limit is, drivers will push that bar up 10 to 20 kilometres, thinking they can get away with it. By raising speed limits, we raise the speeding rates.
Again, Mr. Speaker, are we looking to move Ontarians more safely, or is this government looking to move Ontarians faster? There are items in Bill 282 that I agree with and support. Some of those items we raised ourselves over the past 10 years, so I welcome seeing them implemented.
Mr. Speaker, I don’t have much time, but I have a lot to say. So I end there.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Questions to the member for York South–Weston relating to his presentation on Bill 282? I recognize the member for Burlington
Ms. Jane McKenna: The Moving Ontarians More Safely Act was developed to respond to calls from stakeholders across the province, including members of all sides of this House, for us to do more to reduce the risks on the road. Does the member opposite agree that road safety is a non-partisan issue?
Mr. Faisal Hassan: Thank you, member from Burlington, for the question. I do agree safety is the number one issue for all of us. And I said that one such measure is enabling the use of an automated camera system that can act as an enforcement tool to prevent drivers from illegally passing open streetcar doors. Measures such as these rightly acknowledge the right of pedestrians and transit users to go about their day safely.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Next question.
Mr. Wayne Gates: It’s always a pleasure to rise on Bill 282. My colleague earlier talked a little bit about it, and the Conservative MPP, when he raised auto insurance. Let’s be clear: Auto insurance companies are making record profits; there’s less drivers on the road; there’s less accidents that are happening; there’s less people being killed and injured. Premier Ford said, if I recall—I’m getting a little older; my memory sometimes goes—a few months ago that if the auto insurance companies did not reduce rates and stop gouging consumers, the Premier would do it for them.
Why do you think nothing in this bill reduces auto insurance, as the auto insurance companies continue to, from what I can see, gouge consumers, particularly in areas like Brampton, which was raised earlier today?
Mr. Faisal Hassan: Thank you, my colleague from Niagara-on-the-Lake. That’s a very important question, and this bill really doesn’t address the important issues that affect communities like Brampton and across the province—communities like mine in York South–Weston, where we have postal code discrimination.
We have seen in the middle of the pandemic that people are not driving. The cars are on driveways. It’s also reported that incidents are drastically down, and to this day this government hasn’t provided relief. I think it is fair to make sure that folks have fairness and to end this discrimination. So it doesn’t address this, and I think it’s important that the government addresses that.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Eglinton–Lawrence with a question.
Mrs. Robin Martin: I listened my neighbour the member from York South–Weston with interest, as I always do. I heard him speak about the towing provisions and how he would like to see more meat in the towing provisions. So I just wanted to ask him if he could elaborate on the kinds of things he would like to see that weren’t in the bill with respect to the towing industry.
Mr. Faisal Hassan: Thank you to my colleague my neighbour from Eglinton–Lawrence. I think that’s a very good question. We need to do more to encourage public transit, actually. It’s more important for moving larger numbers of people more efficiently and also takes drivers off the road.
Yes, those provisions are not enough, but we need to do more. The government should support the official opposition in its calls for providing more green public transit. When I heard earlier about the transportation minister and the government’s plans to spend great deals of money building a new highway through sensitive green spaces, I found myself thinking of how much better that money would be spent towards public transit.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The next question.
Ms. Jill Andrew: Thank you once again to our member from York South–Weston for a very informative conversation, a wonderful speech on the government bill, Bill 282, Moving Ontarians More Safely Act. It clearly sounds as though there are pieces of this bill that you appreciate, and you have highlighted the pieces that have come directly from official opposition NDP legislation that the government hadn’t supported. I get a sense that the bill is somewhat rushed, in your opinion. It leaves out some very important supports to the north. So I’m wondering, would you say that this bill is an appropriate bill for the government to bring to the House now, during the pandemic, or is there something else you feel that could have been more effective for keeping Ontarians safe at this time?
Mr. Faisal Hassan: Thank you to my colleague from Toronto–St. Paul’s. That’s a very good question. The government should be bringing bills that are important to the people of Ontario, such as paid sick days, as we know that 60% of our workers don’t have that. We know that in a community like mine, York South–Weston, we don’t even have a permanent vaccine facility. We don’t even have one single pop-up location where people could come and get their vaccines. We need these. We need to be talking about providing support for PSWs who have really been at the front and centre of the pandemic, supporting them. I think my colleague from Nickel Belt talked this afternoon about those we have lost. We need to be investing more, supporting communities and providing paid sick days.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Member for Scarborough–Rouge Park.
Mr. Vijay Thanigasalam: The Moving Ontarians More Safely Act provides regulations and fines to reduce the risk from dangerous drivers, from stunt drivers on the roads. There’s data showing that every three and a half hours there is a collision related to speed. Mr. Speaker, we know that speed kills. We know that through speed there are dangerous accidents taking place. These are all avoidable accidents, and that’s exactly what this bill proposes. It’s been consulted with stakeholders from municipalities, law enforcement, and all the parents and all the families want this bill to protect their loved ones on the road. When they go to work or when they drop their kids off at daycare or when they go for essential appointments, they want to be safe. Also, it protects the workers on and near the highways. Will the member opposite support this bill to reduce the risk and to bring more protection to road users?
Mr. Faisal Hassan: Thank you to the member of the government side. I think that’s a very good question, yes. But at the same time, the government is also raising the speed limit from 100 to 110 kilometres, which will also create more problems. Bill 282, Moving Ontarians More Safely, should be about good green infrastructure that supports public transit, that provides safe use for pedestrians and cyclists, and that’s not doing it.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Nickel Belt.
Mme France Gélinas: It was a very interesting speech that the member from York South–Weston gave us about the different parts of the bill. I enjoyed the part about the electric bikes. The rules are going to change about who can ride them. And I agree with him, do we have the body of evidence that supports bringing the age from 16 to 14? If that body of evidence exists, they certainly have not shared that with us. It would be easier to be in support if we knew more about where that was coming from.
As he went through the different parts of the bill, I especially liked where he talked about, at the very end, what his constituents want us to talk about when they want to stay safe. His speech was clear: They want us to talk about paid sick days, they want us to talk about being able to stay home if you don’t feel good, they want us to talk about closing down non-essential businesses and giving people time to go get their vaccine. So, to the member, what is the most urgent safety issue you hear in your riding?
Mr. Faisal Hassan: Thank you for the question from my colleague from Nickel Belt. Yes, my community is having a lot of problems with transit at the moment. The roads are bad, the infrastructure is old—and that’s neglect. Not only for the last three years here, but for the last 15 years, that has been neglected. We need more transit support. We need, at the moment, paid sick days that the workers need. We need a permanent vaccine facility for our community, because we don’t have any. We don’t even have pop-ups that people can actually come to and get their vaccine. It’s very important also that we support PSWs, because they are really struggling as well. Thank you for the question.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): We really don’t have time for another question, but I want to compliment the members on keeping their questions brief. We got a lot of questions on and the member had many opportunities to respond.
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: It’s an honour to rise here today in support of Bill 282, Moving Ontarians More Safely Act, introduced by my friend the Minister of Transportation, and I’d like to thank the associate minister for her hard work on this bill as well. I’d also like to thank my colleague from Mississauga–Streetsville for her motion 138, from earlier on this year, that called for an increase in penalties for stunt drivers and other dangerous offenders under the Highway Traffic Act.
Speaker, it is important that we address this now because, as the minister said, although there’s been less traffic on our roads during this pandemic, some drivers have taken the open roads as an invitation for stunt driving and street racing. This high-risk behaviour regularly causes injury and death on our roads. And the recent trends are moving in the wrong direction.
Based on the current data, every 3.5 hours in Ontario someone is injured in a speeding-related crash. As the minister said, charges for these crimes are up over 50%, despite far fewer cars on the road. Unfortunately, this has been a real concern in Port Credit, in Mississauga–Lakeshore and across the region of Peel. This bill, if passed, will be a very important step toward addressing this serious road safety issue. I want to thank Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah and the officers on Project Noisemaker and Eliminate Racing Activity on Streets Everywhere for all their efforts in enforcing the Highway Traffic Act. But it is clear that the time has come for us to act and to send a clear message to drivers. As the minister said, driving is a privilege, and those who threaten the safety of others have no place on our roads.
Speaker, last October I spoke here about Jagrajan Brar. Jag was 19 years old, like my son, and had just started his final year at Lorne Park Secondary. He was hit and killed in Port Credit by a man from Orangeville with two prior convictions for impaired driving. He attempted to run from the scene but was arrested by three police officers who had witnessed this tragic event. Speaker, I can report that he pleaded guilty and the case has moved to sentencing. I’m writing a community impact statement which I’ll submit on Friday, but it is clear: The impact has been devastating, not just to Rup, Rob or Sraia and the entire Brar family and Jag’s many friends at Lorne Park, but the entire community. The Brar family fears a guilty plea could lead to a lighter sentence.
Speaker, if passed, the measures in Bill 282 would target the bad actors on our roads who put everyone’s safety at risk. They would send a strong signal in favour of greater penalties for unsafe, reckless driving. This includes longer driver licence suspensions and longer vehicle impoundment periods for stunt drivers, street racers and aggressive drivers.
Bill 282 would also enhance protections for vulnerable road users like pedestrians and highway construction workers though a new camera enforcement framework for streetcars that would allow for greater use of photo evidence. This is incredibly important.
When I moved into my constit office in Port Credit, I had security cameras installed. Just a few days later, at around 2:30 in the morning, a man from Burlington drove his Honda Civic across the Port Credit bridge and went airborne at 150 kilometres an hour. Speaker, he crashed into a sign at the Posta Italbar restaurant. He was killed, and his car exploded. Constable Marttini and the Peel Regional Police said it was like nothing they had ever seen before. They saw part of it on video, captured by my security camera. Last year, another collision happened right outside my front door. Again, it was all caught on camera. So I know this can be a very important resource for our police.
If passed, Bill 282 would allow transit agencies to submit photo evidence of vehicles that are illegally passing streetcars when they’re picking up passengers or dropping them off. We’ve seen far too many incidents where vulnerable people are injured while stepping off a streetcar. That’s unacceptable.
Bill 282 also includes measures to enhance highway worker and commercial vehicle safety, and strengthen our oversight on the towing and vehicle storage sector. Bill 282 would also set out new standards for e-bikes. This is in response to concerns from our municipal partners about new, larger e-bikes sharing bike paths, lanes and sidewalks with other cyclists and pedestrians. Again, this is a particular concern in the community of Port Credit.
Mr. Speaker, I want to talk to you about what happened to me many years ago. Three of my friends died. They were stunt drivers themselves. One at Erin Mills and Dundas with his Corvette: Three people in his car, he lost control and all three of them died. They were my high school friends. Another friend of mine died at Huron Park with his Camaro Z28. He flipped it at Huron Park. They were stunt driving, all three of them. Back then, I looked at it as my friends; today I look at it as a parent—a tragedy for a parent to have to live with losing their children. That is unacceptable and that should never happen again. Another good friend of mine was riding her bike at Mississauga Road and Dundas and was hit by a reckless driver. She died on the scene. I can still see these scenes in my eyes because at one of them I was right there when it happened. These things I will never forget.
We have to do everything possible to prevent stunt driving in the province of Ontario, especially now as a parent myself, with two sons who drive on the road every day. So I want everyone to support this bill and pass it. Let’s get stunt drivers and reckless drivers off our streets of Ontario. Thank you.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Questions? I’ll start with the member from Niagara Falls.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Thank you for allowing me to rise again.
There’s a part in this bill that’s concerning to me, although there are a lot of parts in the bill where a lot of colleagues have already said—it grants more enforcement powers to non-police officers, such as transportation enforcement officers, including the power to close roads for an emergency or accident investigation and the power to pull truck drivers off the road for exceeding hours of operation limits. I’m not sure who you talked to about this, but can you tell me why that’s in the bill? And have the transportation enforcement officers agreed to this? As we know, they’re relatively low-paid. I know they’re concerned about their safety as well. So, maybe you could let me know about that, please.
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I want to thank the member for that question over there. You know, we have to make our roads safer in this province of Ontario, and we have living proof. I have friends who passed away during these periods of time. It’s been over 30 years, but it’s hit me and I still remember it very closely. So we have to do whatever we can to reduce our reckless drivers.
Even on Lakeshore, we’ve reduced the speed limit now from 50 kilometres an hour to 40 kilometres an hour, but we still had someone going at 150 kilometres an hour on Lakeshore. So these are things that we have to continue doing to improve the safety for the people of Ontario and our families.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I recognize next the member for Burlington.
Ms. Jane McKenna: I’m very sad to hear about your friends and what’s happened. It’s very, very tragic.
Could the member highlight to this House why it’s important to address the concerning dangerous driving trends observed during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year?
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I want to thank the member from Burlington for that question. I remember the member across there was talking about the insurance companies and how there are less drivers on the road, but three of these incidents that happened in my riding were during the pandemic, when there were less vehicles on the road: one in front of Posta restaurant at 150 kilometres, and the one on Hurontario and Mineola, in which Jag, a young 19-year-old, lost his life. These are incidents that are happening—oh, and the accident in front of my office; I forgot about that one too—during the pandemic, with less cars on the road.
We have to keep working on reducing these types of incidents that are happening in Mississauga and in the province of Ontario. This bill would help deliver that. So I want everybody to support our Bill 282 and reduce these incidents that are happening in our areas.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The next question.
Mr. Kevin Yarde: I want to thank the member for his contribution to Bill 282, Moving Ontarians More Safely. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but this is an important issue. We all agree that we need more safety on roads, plain and simple. Last year, during the pandemic, unfortunately, Karolina Ciasullo, 37, and her three daughters were killed in Brampton by a driver who had a suspended licence, plates that didn’t match and a horrible driving record. This is something which touched not only my community in Brampton North but right across all of Ontario.
But I think what a lot of Ontarians—people in Mississauga in your riding, as well, and people in Brampton and right across Ontario—really would have liked to have seen in this bill—I know the other member said that you’re not talking about it. We are seeing fewer cars on the road, as the member across mentioned, yet during this pandemic our auto insurance rates are going up. We are seeing fewer accidents. We are seeing people having a hard time paying for their insurance because they are on CERB or they’re on other contributions from the government.
My question, and hopefully I can get an answer this time: Will you commit to lowering the auto insurance in Ontario and will you include this in this Bill 282?
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I want to thank the member for Brampton for that question. This bill is about the safety of our roads, and we have to keep our roads safe. During the pandemic, there have been accidents happening in our communities with stunt drivers. Now, could it be because there are less cars and they’re speeding because they find that the roads are open and they can speed much quicker? I’ve had two deaths and one accident in front of my office over the last three months—at the beginning of the pandemic. So I’m not sure, but we have to improve the safety of our roads, and this is how we’re going to do it: through this bill. There’s always improvement. There’s always improvement in everything that we do. But let’s improve it by doing this bill and passing this bill today.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Burlington.
Ms. Jane McKenna: We’ve all said this, speaking here today: that we’ve all seen people with stunt driving and all the rest, which is very unfortunate. I know my partner and I were going for a drive, and there were five cars weaving in and out, and they were competing with each other. I was worried about that whole situation sitting in the car, because I’m a bit of a nervous Nellie when in the car, so I was grateful I wasn’t driving and that he had command of the road and he was paying a lot of attention to what was going on. I’m grateful to support this. I think this is long overdue, and I’m looking forward to having this pass.
As the Ministry of Transportation has highlighted, a significant amount of consultation went into the measures that are part of the MOMS Act. Could the member highlight to this House the support that has been said about the MOMS Act from the transportation industry?
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I want to thank the member for that question. There’s been a lot of support for this bill across the province of Ontario, but I want to bring up two more issues. I just remembered them right now. Once, I was travelling to Buffalo on the Queen Elizabeth. This was late at night, with my family. I had a car come head on to me. I was going westbound and he was going eastbound in the westbound lane. These are stunt drivers that are happening at night. Not only that, once I was going to Montreal on the 40, on that highway, and I had a driver come head on at me again. I’m not sure if I’m the target or whatever, but this is happening on many occasions. This bill would help to reduce those types of incidents. We have to get these drivers off the road because, like the minister said, it is a privilege to have a driver licence in the province of Ontario and people who abuse it should not have a driver licence in this province.
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: I appreciate the opportunity to ask a question on Bill 282, Moving Ontarians More Safely Act. To the member for Mississauga–Lakeshore: I don’t know if I dozed off for a second and I missed it, but I know that the member from Brampton North had asked a question specifically about auto insurance rates. I know that the Premier had said that if the auto insurance companies didn’t stop gouging people, he was going to take care of it himself. He was going to get those rates down. That was a long time ago. People are still working from home. There are fewer cars on the street. There’s less traffic. There’s fewer accidents.
I’m not trying to downplay what the member from Mississauga–Lakeshore said. I’ve driven past his office; I’ve taken the scenic route into Toronto from home. I’m not trying to downplay the fact that there are stunt drivers—absolutely there are. But this question is specifically to what is in this bill, or why isn’t there anything in this bill or anything that this government has done to date to get those auto insurance rates under control, to stop these companies from gouging drivers in the province of Ontario, when the Premier promised that he was going to do that.
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I want to thank the member for that question. Whenever you pass by my office, you should come in and say hello.
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I’m there all the time. I work there 24/7, so I’m there all the time.
During this pandemic, we’ve noticed that stunt driving has increased throughout the province of Ontario. So this bill is very important right now. This is the bill that we have to pass as quick as we can because we have to reduce stunt driving. It’s like the minister said, and I’m going to repeat it again: It’s a privilege to have a licence in the province of Ontario. We should get these people off the road as quick as possible. As a parent myself, I don’t want to see myself losing my children as well. So I would want you to support this bill. Let’s pass this Bill 282 today.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Before I ask for further debate, I’m going to remind the members about the standing orders in the Legislature which compel us to keep our comments focused on the bill that we’re actually debating and not bringing up a lot of ancillary issues that may very well be extremely important but are not being debated tonight. And since the debate has to be about the bill, the questions and the responses should be about the presentation that was made by the member and not bringing up other issues to the extreme. So let’s try to do that, so that we can conform to the standing orders of the Legislature as we continue the debate tonight.
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: I appreciate the opportunity to get up to speak to Bill 282, Moving Ontarians More Safely Act, 2021, and I appreciate your comments, Speaker. I’m hoping that you’re going to give me a little bit of leeway on this one. I’m going tell the story about my walking in to Queen’s Park today. It has something to do with transportation and traffic—it does.
As I was walking in and I was crossing the street on Wellesley there, I noticed a bunch of traffic that was stopping. They were starting to back up through the traffic lights, and I thought, “What on earth is going on?” Usually it’s somebody turning left to come in to the parking here, but with reduced numbers of MPPs here it didn’t seem like that was the likely cause. As I got closer, when I crossed the street and I started coming up the sidewalk by the driveway there, what I noticed was two geese crossing the street.
What I’ve noticed is that the people in Toronto move a lot faster than they do in Windsor. They tend to drive faster. I’m not saying we don’t have people who speed, because we do, but everybody seems to be in much more of a hurry here in Toronto. They certainly walk faster. I do: When I’m here, I walk faster. And I certainly appreciate that those geese were keeping up with the pedestrians here in Toronto and the traffic here, and they moved quickly across the street.
I also wanted to note that everybody that stopped rolled down the window and was taking in the sight of the geese and seemed to be enjoying it, which was nice to see. And they didn’t get a ticket for crossing the street outside of a crosswalk. Speaker, back home, I can tell you that geese crossing Riverside Drive in Windsor is one of the leading causes of traffic jams in our city. I know it’s not the same here in Toronto.
But back more specifically to the bill, I’m going to focus on really a couple of areas that I have a great deal of experience with, because I drive up here pretty much on a weekly basis. I travel the 401 and then get onto the 403, and then onto the QEW. Sometimes, I’ll get on the Lakeshore. But there’s a lot of roadway that I cover on my drive up here. It happened when I was driving up here Sunday, even, where we see drivers that are driving well above the speed limit.
Speaker, it amazes me, as you get closer to Toronto and you get more congestion on the highway, how there are still drivers who manage to go well above the speed limit, that cut through traffic at the last minute. I don’t know how many times that I thought somebody was going to clip the corner of my bumper on the rear of the car because they waited until the last minute to pull out and cut into another lane, and they have almost taken the front end of another car off, and then they veer back over. They go in and out of the HOV lane, whether they’re supposed to be in it or not. It always amazes me, with the amount of traffic here in Toronto, how people still manage to do that, and do so with seemingly no consideration for the risk that they are not only putting themselves at, but everybody else that’s on the road.
I’m going to go back down my way, as I call it, the deep south of Ontario. I just want to put out there to everybody—sorry to the northerners, but it was almost 26 degrees in Windsor again today. It was even warmer—
Mr. John Vanthof: Above?
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: Yes. It was 26 degrees in Windsor today and yesterday. I’m not rubbing it in, except I am.
But I pulled some articles here, specifically about stunt driving, because I see a lot of it. I’ve experienced a lot of it—not me personally stunt driving, but as I’m coming up the 401 through the stretch basically between Tilbury and almost London. I see on a consistent basis when I am driving that stretch of highway, whether it is coming up to Toronto or going home, somebody is always flying by me at an incredible rate of speed. So I pulled some articles—just a few—over the last few years. There have been many, many instances, and not everybody does get caught.
But here’s one from July 15, 2018: “Stunt Driving Charge Laid in Chatham
“A Waterloo driver had his vehicle impounded and faces potential fines and additional penalties after” the OPP “pulled him over near Chatham ... going”—he was doing over 160 kilometres an hour on the 401. That particular individual was 28 years old. I’m not going to say his name, although it was in the paper, so you can find it.
Here’s another one from October of last year: “Teen Charged with Stunt Driving in Chatham-Kent
“A 17-year-old girl has been charged with stunt driving after Chatham-Kent police say she was caught going 68 kilometres over the speed limit.” She was doing 148 kilometres an hour in an 80-kilometre-an hour zone in the Chatham-Kent area. Seventeen years old, new to driving—she hadn’t been driving very long either.
“London Teen Charged with Stunt Driving
“A 17-year-old London driver has been charged with”—this is a little further up from me—“stunt driving after Brant OPP say they clocked a vehicle going above 170 km-h in a ... 100 km-h zone on Highway 403.” This is just a sampling, and these are just the ones who got caught.
I can tell you, Speaker—and I actually want to stop, because this is all the OPP who are pulling people over. I want to thank the OPP officers for the incredible work that they do.
I can tell you that that particular stretch of highway down my way has a terrible name. It’s now referred to as “Carnage Alley” and there is, unfortunately, a darn good reason for it to be named that. There is a high number of deaths caused by collisions on that stretch of highway, and the vast majority are stunt drivers, people who are going well in excess of the speed limit.
Speaker, with that particular stretch, it’s important to note, many people in that area have either crossed the border in Windsor and are coming into Canada—truck drivers—or they’re leaving Canada with goods that have been produced here and taking them over to the States. So there are a lot of transport trucks on that particular stretch of highway, and yet we still see people—largely young people; some of the older crowd do it too, but largely young people—who drive very dangerously on that stretch of highway and go well above the speed limit. Oftentimes it results in a collision with other cars but, unfortunately, many times it also ends with a collision with a transport truck. It is very few and far between circumstances where someone is going to be driving 150, 160 or 170 kilometres an hour and collide with a transport truck and that they’re going to survive that collision. Oftentimes, they take other people with them. There will be other vehicles behind them coming down the road that don’t have time to stop after that collision takes place.
I implore anybody driving that stretch of highway, or any stretch of highway, or any of our community roads or municipal roads, to think long and hard before you consider putting not only yourself at risk, but recognizing that you are putting other people at risk too. They really need to think long and hard about that.
Clearly, we have an issue with people who not only stunt-drive but who will do it repeatedly. We’ve heard stories in this House, many stories even today, about repeat offenders. Obviously, there needs to be more enforcement and there need to be heavier penalties for the people who choose to break the law time and time again.
Speaker, again I go back to the OPP and the incredible job that they do. I was driving up here and I was in that stretch of highway, along Carnage Alley, and there were five OPP officers within very close proximity to each other parked in the centre of the highway trying to catch people as they speed through there, because that is common. Think about that: If the police are putting that many police vehicles, that much of their resources, into that one particular stretch of highway, you know that there is a problem there. If they need that many officers there to enforce the law, you know there is a problem with that stretch of highway. Speaker, I have had many close calls myself on that stretch of highway because people are stunt-driving and driving dangerously.
I don’t think there’s much of a difference coming up this way either. I could tell you, on Sunday, when I got onto the QEW, there were a few white-knuckle moments for me, and there might have been a few choice words that I can’t say in the House because it’s unparliamentary. But there were quite a few close calls where somebody came speeding up behind me or someone else and cut in the lane and almost caused a collision. So I don’t think it’s something that’s isolated to my area.
Certainly, it happens all over the province, and so definitely we need to be ensuring that there is that strict enforcement. We have to acknowledge the fact that, when people drive like that and those collisions happen, not only does it devastate families, but it’s our first responders who are responding to those calls who have to live with seeing the things that they see, and have to live with calling the family members of people to let them know that their loved one has died in a collision. That is not something that they ever get over having to do, so we all need to do our part to make their job much, much easier.
Speaker, something else that is a concern in my area and in areas around the province is road maintenance. We’re talking about keeping the roads safe for people; we’re talking about them being able to move safely around the province and their own communities. One of the big concerns is winter road maintenance and ensuring that when snow falls, we have the right people out there doing the work they need to do to make sure the roads are salted and sanded and plowed in a timely manner. I would say that there are many instances while I’m driving where I see that that happens, but that is not consistent across the whole province. That is an area where the province could do better. The province could do better when it comes to winter road maintenance, because oftentimes we are seeing collisions because the roads are not cleared in a timely fashion or are not cleared in the way that they should be cleared.
I’m just trying to think. There was one other area that I really wanted to touch on and it’s slipped my mind, because I talked about those geese out there and how the world just seemed to stop in that moment and enjoy seeing them.
Actually, I’m going to talk about something that is—it happens in Windsor, probably not as commonly as it does here in Toronto, which I’ve seen here personally, which is when we have cyclists who are travelling to and fro on their bikes. That’s something that should be encouraged, for people to be walking and cycling and taking public transit, but the risk to cyclists when people are not paying attention—when they’ve parked their car and they open the door, they can seriously harm a cyclist. That’s something that we should be considering as well.
I think that’s also something that we should be reminding drivers of. I don’t know how many times I have personally been crossing the street outside of Queen’s Park here, on Wellesley, and almost been hit by a car because somebody doesn’t completely stop for a light and just makes a turn. They’re rushing to make the turn. They’re not looking for cyclists; they’re not looking for people who are crossing the street. That has some very dire and serious circumstances, and I wish that—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I have to interrupt the member. I’ll ask the Clerks to stop the clock.
Pursuant to standing order 50(c), I am now required to interrupt the proceedings and announce that there have been six and a half hours of debate on the motion for second reading of this bill. This debate will therefore be deemed adjourned unless the government House leader directs that the debate should continue.
Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Continue debate, Mr. Speaker.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The debate shall continue. Start the clock.
Again, the member for Windsor West.
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: Thank you, Speaker.
So there have been several close calls for me myself, and I always stay on the sidewalk and take a good look around to make sure that nobody is coming, even when it is my turn to cross the street. But again, there are drivers who do not take the time to stop and look before they turn. That’s a really serious issue, and so is when somebody is using the public transit here. I can tell you, Speaker, I have had close calls.
Not being from Toronto, being from a much smaller town, we don’t have all the modes of transportation that they do here in Toronto. It does take some getting used to, to know when a streetcar stops and you have to stop. Because sometimes they stop and the warning doesn’t come out and you’re not sure if you can still go, or if you can’t go. I’ve seen people step off the sidewalk and start crossing the street before making sure that all the vehicles have stopped.
I think it’s really important that we strengthen the awareness, the education for people who may not be from larger municipalities like this, who may not be accustomed to driving where there are different modes of public transportation like there are here—make sure that that education is in place to make sure that people who move to an area like Toronto understand what the expectations are and what the laws are, but also to educate the people who use public transit on how to do that safely, how to access it safely, and educate drivers on what their expectation is, how they can keep themselves and the users of public transit safe.
I think that’s a really important piece because, unfortunately, we do have people who learn the hard way, which is not something any of us would want to see, that somebody gets hurt completely by accident because somebody just didn’t know. I certainly wouldn’t want to be the driver who has hit a pedestrian that was getting on or off public transit. That is something that I know would devastate me, to do that, to cause harm to somebody else.
But we need to ensure that when people know the rules and they are purposely skirting those rules or breaking those rules, there is really strong enforcement that comes into play, that there are really strong deterrents to them doing that again, to ensure that it doesn’t get to the point where somebody gets hurt or killed because they decided they don’t have to follow the rules or the rules aren’t for them.
I know one of my colleagues had raised this: It grants more enforcement powers to non-police officers, such as transportation enforcement officers, including the power to close roads for an emergency or an accident investigation and the power to pull truck drivers off the road for exceeding hours of operation limits. On the surface, that sounds really great.
Speaker, again, I drive the highway a lot. I drive quite a few highways just to get here. Oftentimes—well, I’ve lost track of how many times I have almost been sideswiped by a transport truck, especially in the stretch of highway between Tilbury and London. It has happened frequently. Oftentimes they’re distracted. They’re reaching maybe for their log because they have to keep track of their hours. I hope they’re not reaching for their phone; unfortunately, I have seen them reach for their phone.
It’s possible they are tired because they have gone beyond the maximum hours they’re allowed to drive, and a lot of them are on a time limit. They have to get from point A to point B by a certain time or they don’t meet the requirements of that particular contract. They’re not going to deliver the goods they need to deliver within a particular time, and there’s often a pretty stiff penalty for them not making it.
On the surface, this looks like it’s a good thing, but I don’t believe there was really any consultation with transportation enforcement officers on this piece, to include them in the conversation about what their job duties would be and what the expectation is for them. I don’t think the government has really consulted with them—and this affects them greatly—about the fact that they are currently not compensated fairly for the work they do and the fact that it is very dangerous work that they do.
I think this was really a missed opportunity, and I’m hoping that, if this bill passes—and it likely will; they have a majority government, so I can’t see it not passing—when it goes to committee, they listen to the amendments we bring forward and the voices of the people concerned that we bring forward, that they take an opportunity to talk to transport enforcement officers about their concerns and make the amendments needed to the bill that really reflect the great roles and responsibilities that these transportation enforcement officers have, and that they make the changes necessary to ensure they are fairly compensated for the work they do, fairly treated and they are respected for the work they do.
On that note, Speaker, I only have a few seconds left anyways, so I think I’ll sit down and allow folks to ask questions.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Now we’ll invite questions to the member for Windsor West related to her speech on Bill 282, and I’ll start with the member for Whitby.
Mr. Lorne Coe: Thank you, Speaker. I want to thank my colleague from Windsor West for her presentation. I know that she and other members of the assembly regularly meet with their policing associations. I do fairly regularly, and we do it now virtually. One of the areas that I did discuss with them recently was the introduction of stiffer post-conviction penalties for those convicted of stunt and street racing on our roadways.
I would be interested in my colleague’s perspective in terms of her interaction with her own police service, and does she support the increased penalties to deter drivers from engaging in reckless acts of street racing and stunt driving?
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: I don’t think that there would be any member in this chamber who would argue that, if somebody is stunt driving and deliberately putting not only their own life but other lives at risk, there need to be stiff penalties for that, that there needs to be serious enforcement for that.
Yes, I do regularly engage, especially with the Windsor police. The OPP does not interact with my area a lot—they are out in the county—but I’ve had conversations with the OPP. As I said, I see them every time I drive here, and I see the fact that—again, I go back to the fact that, in that one stretch of highway, in a few short kilometres, there were four or five police officers, OPP officers, sitting there, specifically to catch people that are speeding. And I’m not talking about people that are going a little bit over the limit; they’re there for the dangerous drivers. The fact they had to put so many police officers out there in order to police that stretch tells me that there is a huge problem there.
So I think that, absolutely, we need to be doing everything that we can to deter people from stunt driving, to save lives, but to also support the front-line officers who are out there trying to enforce these laws.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Next, I’ll go to the member for Nickel Belt.
Mme France Gélinas: Thank you to the member from Windsor West for your deputation on the bill. I was interested to hear you talk about winter road maintenance. I always think that this is a northern issue, but it snows everywhere in Ontario, Speaker. We’re not the only ones who get the beautiful white snow.
I was wondering if you think that, if we are going to go and bring a bill that is trying to make our roads safer, if you see a part of this bill that should focus on winter road maintenance so that we make sure that, when it snows, no matter where it is in Ontario, the roads are clear, because we all know how slippery and dangerous it could be once the roads are covered with snow, and your experience in Windsor West with winter road maintenance.
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: I appreciate the question from the member from Nickel Belt. She may not have been in here earlier when I mentioned that it was 26 degrees in Windsor today. The winter weather obviously affects my area—I call it the deep south—very differently than it does the northern regions. But what I can tell you is my experience driving from Toronto, to and from Windsor and back. Believe it or not, London is considered the snow belt. You might argue that, being from the north—I’m sure you get more snow. But what I’ve found is that the weather can change so rapidly in my drive, in the four hours. It could turn into a seven-hour drive on the way home, as you get through that stretch in London. Oftentimes, I find that we’re in a situation where the roads are not cleared—aren’t salted, sanded or cleared—in a timely manner. I’ve seen many cars—many cars—go off the road into the ditch, into another vehicle. I’ve seen them collide with transport trucks.
So I think what we need to do is ensure that—well, first, I think that it should be a public service. I think it should be publicly run and publicly delivered. But I think that for any of the contracts that are being given out, it’s incumbent on the government to do the homework to ensure that those companies they’re giving the money to—again, it should be publicly run, publicly delivered—should have all of the equipment they need and all of the workers that they need in order to be able to get out on the roads in a timely manner and get those roads cleared in order to keep people safe, whether that is in the south or in the north. It really needs to be looked at regionally to ensure that the resources are being put to exactly the areas that need it and when they need it. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Don Valley North.
Mr. Vincent Ke: The members of the opposition have always asked our government to plan ahead of the times. According to a survey conducted by the Guardian, people are planning to drive more post-pandemic. I believe Bill 282 comes just in time to educate and prevent people from engaging in reckless acts of street racing and stunt driving. My question is, does the member from Windsor West think we should only propose legislation after the problem gets worse or more people lose their lives?
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: I don’t think that anybody on this side of the House who has spoken yet has suggested that something like this should wait. What we have suggested is that there are other measures that should be included in this bill, that this would be a good time, with this bill, to include things like auto insurance—to get auto insurance under control. I know my colleagues from Brampton have talked about it for years under the Liberals and the Conservatives. We’re not saying that this is not the time to be talking about the potential for people to be driving dangerously and killing people; what we’re talking about is that there are other measures that could go into this bill, and I know that we will have amendments that we will offer to be added to this bill. I seriously hope that this government will include them—not only take them into consideration, but include them.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Niagara Falls.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I thank my colleague for her presentation on Bill 282. Windsor is a lot like Niagara Falls: We’re both border towns. I see in this bill—there are a lot of good things in here. I think there are a lot of things that aren’t in there that hopefully we’ll get done at committee.
Do you see changes in this bill which would help your constituents in Windsor? You already raised one of the things that I put down, auto insurance, and the increase-of-speed pilot project, raising it up to 110. Are they good measures, or are they something that we should have some discussion about?
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: I appreciate the question from the member from Niagara Falls. What I’ll say is this: It seems counterintuitive to be standing here debating a piece of legislation that says we don’t want people to drive fast, and yet the government is moving to increase speed limits on some roadways. It really does seem counterintuitive, and I wouldn’t be the only one who thinks that; I’m sure my constituents would think that too, especially those who drive that stretch of highway that I talk about—the ones who are driving the limit they should be doing.
Again, there’s nothing in here around getting the auto insurance rates down. That’s not going to help my constituents, the fact that they’re not lowering auto insurance rates. There’s nothing in here about winter road maintenance, bringing that back into public hands and having it publicly delivered and ensuring that the roads are getting cleared in a timely fashion. I know that’s a big concern for people who use the roadways, the highways around Windsor.
I am looking forward to our side of the House being able to offer amendments to the government that could strengthen the bill. Again, there are some good things there, but there is a way to strengthen this bill, and I’m hoping that the government will add those things to this bill at committee.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): We’ll allow a quick question from the government side.
Mr. Vijay Thanigasalam: Thanks to the member opposite for her presentation. All of us in this House share a goal to make sure we keep Ontario roads safe, whether it’s in the GTA or in the northern province. The MTO, the Ministry of Transportation, has launched a pilot program to identify and impose tougher standards for clearance to achieve the standard of bare pavement across northern Ontario.
This bill is about road safety. Will the member opposite support this bill to protect—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you. To reply, the member for Windsor West.
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: Sorry; I should have put the earpiece in. I do have a hard time hearing sometimes, so I’m not entirely sure what the question is. But I think I’ve said it before: We, on this side of the House, support road safety. I certainly want to be safer when I’m driving my kids and my granddaughter down the highway. But there are things in this bill that could be strengthened, and we’re looking forward to having that conversation with the government and seeing those things implemented in this bill.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Mr. Wayne Gates: Again, it’s always a pleasure to rise and talk to any bill in the House. But I’m going to start today just a little different, and I think it’s okay. I had a conversation today, this afternoon, with my brother, who I don’t see enough, obviously, because I’m doing this job. Jimmy watches this Legislature every single day—tells you how exciting our lives are together. But I just wanted to reach out to say to Jim, I’m glad that he’s watching. I’d like to say hi to my brother today. So to my brother, Jim: Enjoy the 20 minutes of my speech. He may be the only one.
So there are a couple things before I get into my speech: I do want to talk about how careless driving causing bodily harm or death is rare, with many drivers pleading down to a lesser offence. I’m going to tell you why I want to talk about this. I’ve talked about this before in this House. I’m going to relate an incident that I had in my own house.
My wife, Rita, is a school teacher. Quite frankly, I think she’s the smartest woman I know. But she was coming home from school after class, and she got hit by a drunk driver on Lundy’s Lane. An individual had come down to the Sundowner who had far too much to drink, and hit her head-on. She was lucky she wasn’t killed.
The individual didn’t destroy her life, but he certainly altered it. He altered it for our family. He altered it for my daughter Jacqueline, who is now 23. But he was able to get better, with very limited injuries, where my wife, Rita, could no longer go for a long walk. She used to beat me all the time in squash. She was a lot better at squash than I was. But it was something that we did together. She couldn’t do that. She struggles riding a distance with a bike.
But in this particular bill, there’s nothing in there to address the person that hit her, who was a drunk driver— by the way, I’ll tell you exactly what he served: He got a three-month suspended sentence. That was 15 years ago and, obviously, to this day, my wife still has issues.
So I’d really like you to consider taking another look at that part in the bill. It’s not addressed in the bill, and I think it’s something that should be. I’ve raised it before here—not successfully—with the Liberal government and now, obviously, with the Conservative government. But I think anybody that does what he did to anybody, the drunk driver should pay a punishment. The sentence should fit the crime, and in this particular case it certainly didn’t. So I wanted to raise those two issues.
Again, it’s a pleasure to rise. I’m glad to say, today, there are some pieces of this bill I’m happy to see and I’m happy to support. I’m glad to see the bill includes tougher penalties for stunt driving, regulations for the towing industry, safety cameras on streetcars and enforcement and reporting of dooring incidents. By the way, I know, Speaker, you have probably seen this; you’ve been here a lot longer than I have. How many times have you seen somebody out here riding a bike and get hit by the car through the door opening? I’ve seen it myself four or five times, and some of those injuries have been serious.
So I know these issues have been raised by a number of my colleagues, and it’s good to see that they’re entering the law now. It shows that people can work together in this House to pass laws that make the province safer. However, there are some areas where this bill can be improved, and we’re tabling those amendments at committee. I really hope that the government will seriously consider these amendments. This is a pretty large bill that changes quite a few things, so let’s make it perfect, or as close to perfect as we can. Let’s deal with more of the major problems that we have on our roads in one action. We can do that by adding to this bill.
But I wanted to talk about some of the ways this bill can be stronger and more comprehensive today. There are a few issues here we’ve been raising for years that could be included in the bill. If you want to make our roads safer, one of the best ways to do that is look at how we can maintain our roads during the winter, right here in southern Ontario, but I know up north has been just a horror show for years.
I know it’s going to be a while until we see snow again, if we’re lucky, but it’s important that we get it right now. Because for years the process we’ve had to clear our roads in the winter has left our roads dangerous. In my riding we have a stretch of the QEW from Fort Erie to Niagara Falls that, quite frankly, hasn’t been properly cleared in years. It puts residents at risk, and it’s because of how these contracts are awarded, and it needs to be fixed immediately.
Mr. Speaker, we started to realize this was a serious problem when the previous Liberal government entered into some disastrous contracts to have companies clear our roads during the winter. Across Ontario, they were simply selling the contracts to the lowest bidder. They didn’t examine the companies. They didn’t care what their records looked like. They just gave it to the lowest bidder. We found out that in some cases, they were giving contracts to companies—I want you to listen to this, both sides of the House, as bizarre as it is—that didn’t even have equipment to clear the roads. So they put a bid in, they didn’t have the equipment to clear the roads, and the Liberal government awarded them the contracts. And they were long-term for multi-millions of dollars. There were companies that didn’t even have plows or salt, and they were awarded contracts to clear our roads.
One of the biggest companies that was given a contract ended up going bankrupt before they finished the contract. What ended up happening is exactly what you’d expect to happen: Across the province, roads weren’t being cleared and people were driving on unsafe roads. In the winter hours, they were driving on roads that felt like skating rinks. You can imagine, as the government that oversees these roads, why this is an emergency and needs to be fixed.
Here’s the problem: The current Conservative government hasn’t changed the process. These roads used to be cleared by public companies and public workers. When that was the case, we didn’t have any of the issues with companies that we have now. Our roads were cleared, and people were happy and safe.
I’m going to give you an example; hopefully people will do some research on this when they’re sitting at home tonight. In fact, Manitoba is a perfect case. When we began raising this issue, you could see the difference with Manitoba, which was still using a public system to clear the roads. So to clear roads, Manitoba is still using a public system, not a private system. And at the Ontario-Manitoba border, you will see a cleared road, and then you’ll see the roads in Ontario looking awful. Once you crossed the border into Ontario, the roads were immediately worse, and we have stats to prove that.
If you want to make our roads safer, this is one of the easiest ways: just go back to the old system, go back to the public system. Enough of selling our safety to the lowest bidder; let’s give the work to local residents of the province and ensure they have a track record of keeping our roads safe. This government talks all the time about buying local, supporting local. What a better way to do it: Provide good local jobs right here in Ontario, with fair wages, fair benefits; in a lot of cases, they were unionized.
We spent money when it was public and got a good service, and we didn’t we have to worry about these contractors ripping us off and Ontarians covering the bill. Above all, it kept people safe; that was the most important thing. What is more important than that? Knowing that when you’re on our Ontario roads and you’ve got your two kids in the back seat and your beautiful wife beside you, the roads are safe. That wasn’t always the case here in Ontario.
Mr. Speaker, this is one piece I would like to see added to this bill when it comes to transportation and Niagara. For those who don’t know, I’m the MPP for Niagara Falls. I would like to see the government move towards creating a framework for better GO train service to Niagara. This is something we’ve been working on for seven years in this Legislature, and we’re nearly there, but we need to do more. It’s taken a long time, but it seems the PCs have finally realized how badly we needed GO train service in Niagara. I’m glad to have worked with them over the last number of years on this.
Now that we’ve begun, we need to make sure it has the chance to succeed, and that’s the key, because it’s all driven by numbers. Many of you know that we’ve been successful in working together to bring GO train service directly from Niagara Falls to Toronto and back. We came together as one Niagara and finally showed the government why this needed to happen—and when I say we came together as one Niagara, under the GO train file, every level of government in Niagara supported the GO train. They knew it was a game-changer. They knew it was going to create incredible employment opportunities, but they also knew that it was going to cut the time between the two communities.
The problem we have now is that we don’t have enough train service for it to be successful for everyone who needs it. Right now, the only train you can get comes at 5:30 in the morning. It takes about two hours to get to Toronto and then two hours to get back. Simply put, it’s a good start to prove the service is possible, but it’s not really accessible for most commuters.
Mr. Speaker, if we don’t expand the hours the train is available, we will risk the program failing to catch on. And most of you know, it’s no longer the case—or at least it wasn’t before COVID—that you can avoid rush hour traffic from Niagara to Toronto. If you leave at 7 a.m. or 11 a.m., you’re still going to sit in traffic for two or three hours on the QEW.
If you want to move the residents of Ontario safely across this province, the best way to do that is to get them off the road. It’s good for the environment, it’s good for the residents and it can help people get work outside of Niagara while living in Niagara. Beyond that, it’s good for the economy of the province. We have so many trucks crossing our border relying on the QEW. Many of these shipments are what we call just-in-time shipments. They’re on the clock. It hurts companies if the goods are tied up sitting in traffic on the QEW. So it’s good for Niagara residents and it’s good for business. We want the QEW to be as clear as possible.
Mr. Speaker, a lot of people are moving to Niagara. It’s a great place to live. It’s beautiful. As many of you know, this is becoming more and more of a problem each and every day. It’s usually a good thing, but it’s creating two problems this government needs to deal with immediately, and I think it’s important, particularly for young people. The first is ensuring we have housing down there, housing that people can afford, and the second is traffic. If we want to generate economic activity and if you want to move Ontario safely, then they need access to the GO train.
Now, I believe this bill is supportive. It contains many things my colleagues have been advocating for in this House for a long time. I would just like to see something there for that, something that says, “Here’s the support Niagara needs to get more trains at better hours so the GO train is accessible to everyone who works outside of Niagara.” I am willing to work with anyone on that side of the aisle to make it happen, because we need this train in Niagara.
Mr. Speaker, since this bill was put forward by the Minister of Transportation, there is one specific thing I’d like to talk about that’s not in the bill. It’s something that my office has reached out to the minister about, but we haven’t been satisfied with the answer. I’m hoping this bill can be an opportunity to fix it. The issue is safety at highway off-ramps. In my riding, we have an off-ramp in Niagara Falls at the Mountain Road exit on the QEW. If you want to make roads safer, as this bill says, this is something we can do immediately to save lives and make roads safer.
Mr. Speaker, the issue we have in this example is that the intersection at the off-ramp is under the jurisdiction of the MTO. We need a stoplight there, but we can’t get one, because the minister won’t put one in. The issue we have is that thousands of people come to Niagara Falls every weekend—when we didn’t have COVID as a concern. Mountain Road is one of the exits that they take to get to the falls through the city. Because there’s no stoplight there, cars line up, sometimes dozens of them, and try to turn left onto a busy road. They start to back up towards the highway, and the overpass ends up with a ton of congestion. It’s dangerous at both ends. The residents who live there can tell you exactly what happens. With the amount of truck traffic we have on the road, visitors try to speed across the lanes to turn left, and you can imagine what happens when hundreds of people are doing that a day. Tragically, we’ve already lost lives because of it.
It doesn’t need to be this way. That off-ramp can be made safe, and the Ministry of Transportation can do it tomorrow. They can put it in this bill, or they can just do it. They have the power to make that intersection safer and save lives.
I want to be as clear as possible: We need traffic lights at the Mountain Road exit of the QEW. They will save lives, and any delay on this puts residents at risk. It’s not acceptable and it needs to be fixed now. I stand with the residents in the hope that we can get that done as soon as possible, that light.
Mr. Speaker, I want to return to one of the major issues not in this bill, and that’s the left turn. I’d like my colleagues to listen to this because one of their colleagues, going back awhile, had her husband get killed because of this—the left turn. It was a Liberal, by the way. Sorry. I apologize; it was a Liberal.
I’ve put forward a number of times, and I know my colleague from Oshawa has as well, that there’s simply no reason this oversight in the Highway Traffic Act is still allowed to stand. Let me explain for those who are watching at home. Right now in the province of Ontario—listen to this—people are being killed when a driver isn’t paying attention and they make an illegal left turn. They violate the Highway Traffic Act. Because of an oversight in the Highway Traffic Act, the maximum charge for killing a person or a family because of this—think about this—is $500.
We often speak about the need to make sure that the penalty fits the crime and raise the rates on distracted drivers to deter people from doing it, yet the government did not support doing this same thing when it came to this oversight on left-hand turns. In fact, neither the previous Liberal government, nor this current government, has supported fixing this simple error. Think about that. Somebody’s life’s worth a lot more than $500. I do not understand why they both hesitate to just fix an oversight, an oversight that is denying those who die on the road justice.
This happened to a resident in Niagara Falls. They were on Victoria Avenue, an area of Niagara Falls with an overpass that has a poor traffic plan because of the way the city grew around the overpass. When folks go over the overpass, it’s hard to see who’s turning left at the bottom. That’s what happened: A person died, and because of this oversight in the Highway Traffic Act, the maximum penalty was $500. It would be more if it was anything else that had happened, but because it was a left turn, the penalty is capped. I want my colleagues to listen to that: This penalty is capped at $500. This could easily be passed so that it should immediately be added to the bill.
Mr. Speaker, there’s one final piece that I hope the government will add to this bill, and that’s distracted driving. As we know, this is now the leading cause of death on the roads, overtaking impaired driving. This is something that is affecting everyone on the roads, particularly our young people. If you speak to people who use their cellphones when they drive, they think distracted driving is something that happens to someone else—that they only peek at their phone and then put it down. We’re not doing enough to fight this issue that’s taking lives on our roads.
When I talked about this before, I talked about the history of seatbelts. When I was growing up, seatbelts were commonplace, but when they were first introduced not everyone was using them. It took a massive education campaign to fix this, and now we can’t even think about getting in the car without putting on a seatbelt. But that took needed action from the government. On this issue, we need more work done to educate the public and tell them how dangerous this is and how it could happen to anyone. Stopping distracted driving needs to be like a seatbelt campaign of this generation, and we can start that here today.
Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, there’s many pieces of this bill we’re happy to see—many pieces taken from the opposition—and we’re glad to see in some areas we can work together and make our roads safer, but it’s all about safety, particularly for our kids and our grandkids.
I think what I’ve presented here are just some of the ways we can make this bill better. We can fix that intersection at Montrose. We can beef up the penalties in this bill around unsafe driving. We can ensure that commuters have full access to the GO train so they can get to Hamilton or Toronto and back on a schedule that makes sense. It would get cars off the road and make transportation safer. We can fix this contracting issue and we can make roads safe in the winter. If we want to add a few amendments to this bill, we can create a strong bill to protect road users and, above all, save lives. That would be a good use of our time here.
Thank you for giving me a chance to speak to the bill.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Questions?
Ms. Jane McKenna: First of all, I’d like to say to the member from Niagara Falls that I always appreciate every time you speak. I appreciate your passion—a very, very sad situation about your wife, Rita. It not only obviously impacted her, but as you said, it impacts everyone in your house. Unfortunately, there are people who still drink and drive, and we need to make sure that stops. It’s a terrible, terrible situation that you just mentioned, so I just wanted to say thank you for—it’s private and personal, and you mentioned it today.
You’ve mentioned a couple of things that you really liked about this bill. Could you let us know what those couple of things are that you do like about this bill? Thanks.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I want to thank you for your kind words about my wife, Rita. The reason why I’m saying that is that I asked my wife if it’s okay if I ever raise this in the House, because the more people who understand that when you drive drunk—there really isn’t a lot in this bill about it—some of those things have to stop and we have to educate people that when you get behind the wheel and you’re driving, this is what can happen. It’s not just the individual in the car that you hit. It affects their entire life. It affects the family. It affects the community. In her case, quite frankly, it affected her school.
What I didn’t tell in that story is that she had a goal to be a principal, and even though she had a lot of physical challenges, she didn’t let that get in the way. One of the reasons why I say she’s one of the smartest, hardest-working women I know is because she became a principal. We’re all very proud of her on that. I can tell that she’s raised a wonderful daughter who’s smarter than her, quite frankly. So I do appreciate those kind words.
Like we said, there’s lots of things in this bill that I think we can work together on. I think, on the bill, I’d like to have some discussions around the pilot project around 110. I know it’s in Niagara, by the way. I don’t know the other parts of the province where it’s in.
I don’t know how long you’re going to let me talk, but—I mean, I’ll talk as long as you want; it’s one of the things I’m not bad at. But I just want to say on the 110, we should really take a serious look at that. If we’re going to say we’ve got to take a look at stunt driving, we should be looking at that 110, because if you’re saying, “Let’s increase the speed, but we want to get stunt driving off our roads”—I know they’re a little different, but I think it’s something that we might want to take a look at, too.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further questions?
Ms. Doly Begum: I want to thank the member for his speech. I got to learn a lot about your family today, as well. You mentioned a few things that you would have liked to see, and I know there are a few bills that we have actually proposed in the House that would have been really good additions. Would you be able to mention some of those and how that would impact and actually improve this bill further?
Mr. Wayne Gates: In fairness, I think I went through a lot of the things I think we need to do in the bill, but I really want to talk about a couple of things that I do like in the bill. The illegal passing of open streetcar doors—that’s a real issue in Toronto. I see it when I’m walking down the street all the time. I see that. I really like the idea that we’re going to have reportable collisions when you’re riding your bike down the road and they open the door. It’s now a reportable collision.
I like the idea of taking a serious look at reducing the motorcycle—I guess they’re assisted-power motorcycle-type things, e-things—the age from 16 to 14. I think that’s another good thing that’s in the bill. Making sure our that we have to stop behind school buses, with the cameras. I think all that stuff, anything that deals with safety and making our kids be able to go to school and come home safe and help the bus driver—I think driving 50, 55 kids around is a pretty tough day at any time, and the more we can do to make it safer for them, to make sure our kids are safe. I think they’re all good things that are in the bill.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Next question?
Mrs. Robin Martin: Thank you to the member opposite for his comments. I listened intently, as I always do. One of the changes that we’ve proposed is about working conditions for our highway workers, which I thought was something you would probably be interested in. What we’re trying to do is allow for the use of automated traffic control devices to direct traffic around a construction site. I’m just wondering if the member opposite would agree that that kind of technology, and using that kind of technology, like an automated traffic control device, might be useful to help protect our workers and to keep our goods moving.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I’m going to be honest with you; I don’t have enough expertise around the arm, on how safe it would be and how it would control it. But what I will tell you is, we have to do everything we can to protect the people that are working on our highways. I had a lady call me from Stoney Creek probably almost two months ago. One of the workers was working on the highway between Hamilton and Niagara and got hit. The worker died. She had called and said, “Is there anything we can do to make it safer, so people understand that people that are working on our highways—we have to take all the precautions.”
So if the arm works, good. Is it making sure that they have got to move over, so we put something out further down so that there’s no chance of them doing—whatever it takes to make it safer on our roads for workers, I think, is a good idea. I’m not an expert on whether the arm’s a good idea or a bad idea. What I do know is the safety of workers should be number one, and if that helps, then let’s do it. If that’s not working, let’s find something else so people aren’t getting killed on our highways, which is happening quite regularly, as you know.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Another question?
Ms. Jill Andrew: I’d like to say thank you to our member from Niagara Falls for that very informative presentation. I’m thrilled to hear that Rita has been able to find that meaning in being an outstanding principal, I’m sure.
As I sat listening intently to you, what really stuck out to me was that piece around the left turn, and the fact the people are dying and those that have caused their deaths are looking at a $500 fine. How quickly can the government reconcile and fix that?
Mr. Wayne Gates: Well, I would hope it would be relatively quickly. I watched the expression of my colleagues across the aisle, and you’re shaking your heads like I am. I think you’re probably surprised that, under the Highway Traffic Act, if you make an illegal left turn and you kill somebody, the only thing you can get is a $500 fine.
Where it really came into play is when I was the transportation critic. I don’t think I was the transportation critic when the Conservatives were in power, but with the Liberals it actually came to light. Two motorcycles were driving down a country road, a husband and a wife. Somebody made an illegal left turn, hit the two of them, killed them instantly. They brought it forward to Queen’s Park. They had lobby days here. I believe it was one of the Liberal MPPs; her husband was an OPP officer. The same thing happened to him when he was driving—an illegal left turn killed the officer. She was very passionate here in the House. I’m sure, Ted, you remember that—I guess “Speaker,” sorry. I think we all remember the fact that she was passionate and she was trying to get that bill changed in memory of her husband.
So I think it’s something that should be done. I think it makes absolutely no sense that it’s still not in the Highway Traffic Act. I would hope that the Conservatives, who have a majority government, would pass it immediately. I think it would be a great thing for the province of Ontario.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The next quick question.
Mr. Aris Babikian: The Moving Ontarians More Safely Act is addressing so many different issues, and it came in response to many stakeholders’ requests, input, to bring those modifications and make it stronger. Even from this House, there was a request. So do you think that road safety, the MOMS bill, should be a non-partisan issue and all of us should work together to make this bill a reality?
Mr. Wayne Gates: Thank you for the question. I think in this House we should always be working together to make bills better. This is one that, I think, is pretty clear. Our colleagues have brought a couple of bills very similar to this forward over the course of a number of years. I think there are lots of things. I think the Ontario Good Roads Association is a good organization. I think the CAA, which comes here and has lobby days every year—I’m a CAA member. They want to see this. We all want to make sure that our roads are safe, and we all want to make sure, collectively, we get there.
I don’t make those calls in my party, but I’m sure we’re going to bring amendments. I’m sure our critic’s going to bring amendments to make the bill stronger, and I think, working together, we can support the bill. I think that’s where we’re heading.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Mr. Kevin Yarde: It’s an honour to rise here to speak to Bill 282, the Moving Ontarians More Safely Act. I’m just going to check the time here: I have 10 minutes; I thought I had 20 minutes, but I’ll have to shorten my answers here this evening.
Speaker, I have to say that after I finished going through Bill 282, I was surprised that this government hasn’t tried to sneak in a schedule that serves their agenda, like they did with so many other bills. Bill 257, for example, had that hidden schedule which allows MZOs to override the Planning Act and allow the destruction of our wetlands in Ontario. I’ll talk a little bit more about that as we get through my discussion.
My constituents and I, Mr. Speaker, are frustrated that this government would move in such a direction when all of the environmental experts have been telling us that the situation is critical. They’ve been telling us we need bold action to handle the climate crisis in Ontario. Instead, this government chooses to take us a step backwards. It’s a shame, but that’s the sort of behaviour that we’ve come to expect from this government. I do have words on this bill, and I’ll speak to them, but I just wanted to take a moment to express the sentiment that my constituents shared on this government’s track record.
I appreciate that this bill attempts to address stunt driving concerns that we have in Brampton. We, the official opposition, have been advocating for these issues for many years. I want to give credit to Jessica Bell and Tom Rakocevic. They’ve been pushing for these changes for the vulnerable road users of Ontario.
Stunt driving charges have been on the rise in Peel, and while these tougher penalties will help, I believe there could be further consequences on drivers who seriously injure or kill vulnerable road users, on which I’ll talk a little bit further. A vulnerable road user, according to the Highway Traffic Act, could include but not be limited to a pedestrian, a cyclist, a mobility device user, a roadway worker, an emergency responder, a police officer or a firefighter outside their motor vehicle. Drivers who commit stunt driving resulting in severe injury or death of a vulnerable road user must face consequences that ensure responsibility and accountability.
In the city of Brampton, we’ve taken initiative to deal with stunt driving. Brampton’s new photo radar system appears to be doing what it’s intended to do: make drivers pay for speeding along the streets of the city. The ASE does have some restrictions, however: The devices will also only be permitted in school zones and community safety zones where the speed limit is below 80 kilometres an hour. With 32 cameras spread out at different locations across Brampton, the automated speed enforcement system has caught over 100,000 speeders, which have led to fines of more than $1 million. This program is pushing ahead in Brampton, which has a goal of eventually placing 200 cameras across the city.
Earlier today, I spoke about the tragic situation last year which happened during the pandemic, where a mother of three, Karolina Ciasullo, 37, and her three young daughters, Klara, Lilianna and Mila, were killed on June 18 after their Volkswagen was struck by an Infiniti near Torbram Road and Countryside Drive, which is in Brampton East, my colleague’s riding. The driver, from Caledon, had a suspended licence. He had plates that didn’t match and an awful driving record. This should never have happened. The residents of Brampton and Caledon and right across Ontario, as a matter of fact, started petitions to make sure that we had stronger legislation on stunt driving.
We’ve also heard of a case where a driver took the lives of four members of a family—grandparents and young children killed by DUI driver. This individual is now out of prison after serving three and a half years. This is outrageous, Mr. Speaker. We do need tougher penalties, and I hope this legislation makes sure that we have those tougher penalties.
I’d also like to mention the ongoing program which increased the speed limits to 110 kilometres an hour, which is in the member of Niagara Falls’s riding. As soon as you get over the Burlington Skyway bridge and you’re heading towards Fort Erie, the traffic speed limits have increased to 110 kilometres an hour. This program could end up undermining these new efforts which the government is bringing forward, like reduced stunt driving speeds. It’s a little bit of a concern and it’s counterintuitive to increase speed limits when the government wants to deal with speed limits.
Now, about road safety, I recently had an informed discussion with Alex Milojevic, the general manager of Brampton Transit. He wanted to emphasize, and have me speak to this, that we’ve got one of the largest-growing transit systems in Canada. Statistics show that between 2009 and 2019, our ridership grew over 160%, outpacing other jurisdictions in public transit. He was glad there was a Safe Restart program providing funding to sustain transit during the pandemic, but continued funding post-2021 is critical in Brampton because of the pace of growth in our ridership.
This bill could improve by considering getting us back to steady transit in the Brampton area. Public transit plays a key part in dealing with the growing traffic congestion in Ontario. I see this on my way to Queen’s Park every day coming down the 410: gridlock in Brampton because of these government cuts. These gridlocks are not safe—we’re talking about safety—for the roads of Ontario. Aside from contributing to the frustration of Ontario’s drivers, they also add an unparalleled growth of emissions in Ontario.
This problem persists during the pandemic because Brampton’s workforce is full of essential front-line workers. That’s why they’re all on the roads. Even with fewer cars on the roads in all of Ontario, I see the traffic congestion caused by the chronic underfunding of the Liberal and Conservative governments. Despite having one of the fastest-growing riderships, Brampton has not seen its fair share of transit investment, and I am hoping this bill will do something about that.
We also talked about the stable gas tax, which is a provincial gas tax that provides funding to Brampton Transit. This stable funding is very important. With the pandemic and lower consumption of fuel, the province must continue paying the same amounts, and I hope they continue doing that.
The government is using old data for their allocation of funding for transit, which has hurt Brampton. As I’ve mentioned multiple times, already Brampton has one of the fastest-growing cities and riderships in the province, so using old data hurts us disproportionately.
I know I don’t have much time, so I’m going to skip ahead here and talk about another issue I’ve been hearing growing concerns about from my constituents, and hopefully they can add this to the bill: proposed Highway 413. In late 2017, a report from the provincial government’s expert advisers recommended against the highway, noting that it would only save drivers an estimated 30 to 60 seconds per trip. The report also identified several cost-effective and sustainable alternatives to ensure the movement of freight through the region, an important logistic hub, which we all know is in the Peel region.
This 413 affects municipalities such as Halton, Vaughan, Brampton and Orangeville, and it could also be an environmental catastrophe. So the government has reversed that decision and will proceed with plans to build a highway, regardless of local concerns and environmental impacts. There are serious questions about whether the new highway is yet another attempt by the government to open the greenbelt to further development. So we need to know exactly, are they or are they not going to proceed with Highway 413?
As we look at the Ontario Dump Truck Association—I want to briefly talk about this—and dump truck operators regarding the negative impacts of the Highway Traffic Act and the Ontario regulation for safe, productive and infrastructure-friendly vehicles, owner-operators and small businesses face illogical and unreasonable costs, from $25,000 to $40,000 per vehicle, to retrofit their trucks to comply with these regulations. This is something which I hope the government will put into their bill. It will definitely assist these dump truck drivers.
Now, some of the things I think we can improve: We can maintain roads in northern Ontario. We have a lot of northern members here. In Timmins, as well as in Sudbury, in terms of stunt driving, it’s not a big issue there. The reason why is because the roads are just so horrible. They can’t do any stunt driving there because the roads are horrible. Hopefully, this government will improve the maintenance of these roads.
And one thing that the member of Niagara Falls mentioned: We have to move away from private contractors to public contractors, because we’ve seen what happens. Roads are not being taken care of, and private contractors are responsible.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Questions?
Mr. Logan Kanapathi: Thank you to the member from Brampton North for the legitimate, very important concerns you raised from Brampton’s perspective. Those are very, very important concerns.
My question, through you, Mr. Speaker, to the member: I know you talked about the tougher penalties for some of those offences, for some of those reckless drivers on the road. You talked about the tougher penalties. Does the member opposite agree with these increased penalties to deter drivers from engaging in reckless acts of street racing and stunt driving?
Mr. Kevin Yarde: Thanks for the question. We said all along that reckless driving is something that we have to deal with here in Ontario. Nobody on this side or on that side believes that this is something that should be taken lightly. We believe that the fines should represent the crime, and I’m hoping that this government will do that.
But there are so many other things that this bill is not bringing in, and we need to make sure—as I ended off my last part of my conversation, when we’re talking about the maintenance of roads, this is very critical, not just in northern Ontario, but also in southern Ontario. I remember driving through Toronto, and the roads are fine on the 403. Then once you hit the Peel region, it’s like you’ve gone into Siberia: The roads aren’t even plowed. It was every year. You knew when you were leaving Toronto and you were entering into the Peel region.
So we need to deal with road maintenance, and I’m hoping that this government will make adjustments to who is clearing these roads, because as the member from Niagara said, some of these companies, the lowest bidders, don’t even have plows and don’t even have salt. This is very serious and something we should be dealing with if we’re going to talk about road safety. Hopefully, you’ll be able to address this to the Premier.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Brampton East.
Mr. Gurratan Singh: This bill obviously has a lot of aspects that are things that the NDP supports, but it’s lacking on a very important issue of auto insurance. My question to the member is: What are your community’s concerns with auto insurance—we both represent Brampton—for Brampton North specifically? And what do folks in Brampton need right now for changes with respect to auto insurance?
Mr. Kevin Yarde: I’d like to thank my colleague from Brampton East for that question. Obviously, we all agree that stunt driving is bad and road safety is very important, but when I speak to my constituents on the street, this is not what they’re concerned about. Their main concern is auto insurance and the fact that we pay the highest auto insurance in Ontario, if not in the country. We are in a global pandemic. We are seeing fewer cars on the roads, we are seeing fewer accidents, we’re seeing fewer claims, and yet auto insurance companies are raking in billions—with a B—in premiums.
This government should be helping out Ontarians. They say they’re for the people. They should be helping out people in Ontario and giving them a break, because we can’t leave it up to the insurance companies. I’ve had calls, I’ve had emails, with people saying, “My insurance company gave me a break—a few dollars a month.” That’s what has been happening in Ontario. It is wrong, and this government needs to step up and legislate to make sure that we get benefits for Ontario drivers and lower auto insurance. I’ve got to say, we’re in a pandemic and we need to lower the auto insurance now.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Don Valley North.
Mr. Vincent Ke: Speeding has been a problem for decades. Both municipal and provincial police are reporting a spike in speeding and stunt driving during COVID-19. On May 9 last year, an 18-year-old was driving 308 kilometres per hour on the QEW. Fewer vehicles on the road has been seen as an open invitation to street racing and dangerous driving. By having Bill 282, we are sending a clear message that reckless behaviour is putting everyone’s lives at risk. My question is, will the member from Brampton North support this bill and save lives of our drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and highway workers?
Mr. Kevin Yarde: Thank you for the question, to the member opposite. We all agree—I’ve said this before—that speeding is wrong, speeding kills. We agree with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, what they are proposing as well. That’s not the point. That’s not the issue.
What the concern is, is that we are in a pandemic and we’re not dealing with the issues that we need to be dealing with right now. We need to make sure that we’re dealing with what’s been happening in terms of auto insurance. We need to deal with paid sick days. We need to deal with more opportunities for people in Ontario, and especially in Brampton, making sure that they have pop-up clinics. These are the concerns that I’m hearing on the streets right now.
I didn’t say we disagree with what you’re talking about. It’s just not something that should be on the docket right now. Hopefully, you’ll listen to some of our amendments during committee. Some of these recommendations from the member from Oshawa, who is the critic on this file—unfortunately, because of cohorts, she is not available for this debate, but I think we should be looking at some of the recommendations in her Bill 122. It’s an amazing bill. Hopefully, you will read that bill as well and add that to your Bill 282.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Toronto–St. Paul’s.
Ms. Jill Andrew: Thank you very much to the member from Brampton for your presentation on Bill 282. You’ve mentioned auto insurance several times in this House, for quite a while, that the auto insurance rates in Brampton are skyrocketing and that many of these cars are now parked in the driveways, because many of these workers might be also working at home.
I’m just wondering: Where else could those funds, those dollars go to help your constituents now, if they weren’t having to pay these ballooning auto insurance rates?
Mr. Kevin Yarde: I want to thank the member for her question. As I mentioned before, this bill—we do agree that speeding and stunt driving is wrong. I agree with it, and every member in this House agrees with it. Speed kills, and we’ve been seeing it. As I mentioned during my speech, last June, unfortunately, a mother of three children was killed in the Brampton East area when a driver who didn’t have a proper driver’s licence killed her and her daughters. So we need stiffer penalties, for sure.
But at the same time, we have fewer drivers on the road because of the pandemic. We have fewer accidents. It’s all been proven. We have to deal with what’s going on in Ontario. Drivers in my riding of Brampton North pay the highest auto insurance in the entire province, Mr. Speaker. I know this government doesn’t want to talk about auto insurance, but it’s all tied in. They’re trying to stay away from it, because obviously they realize that it’s something they don’t want to deal with. We pay over $3,000 a month in auto insurance in Brampton North. I think it’s indicative of this government to deal with that and not hide under their tables every time we bring it up.
Like I said, we agree about stunt driving and racing, but this is very important as well. If there was ever a better time to lower the auto insurance, it’s right now during a pandemic. But we are seeing the rates going up, even though people are driving less.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’m going to point out, it is true that it’s compulsory for Ontario drivers to purchase auto insurance, but that would be under a different ministry. There’s no reference to auto insurance in this bill. So I would ask that the next question be about the bill, the bill itself.
Mme France Gélinas: Again, I represent a riding from northern Ontario where road safety is very important. We have very few alternatives to driving our own car. There is no public transit where I live. There is nothing of the sort. But you did mention the difference it would make to have winter road maintenance done by the government, so that when it comes time to measure if we have a centimetre or a centimetre and a half of snow so that you can tell the snowplows to go out, it would be the government who would do those measurements, rather than leaving it to the private sector.
Do you see a conflict in having the private sector bring something that is so important to driver safety in the north?
Mr. Kevin Yarde: The answer to my colleague is yes. We have been seeing road maintenance lacking in northern Ontario. We’ve been bringing it up every year for this government. It seems that the northern parts of Ontario are getting the short end of the stick. If we really care about road safety, we have to deal with this.
I know I’m not in northern Ontario, but I understand what’s going on up there. We don’t have as many drag races or as much speeding up there because the roads are in horrible condition. I’m hopeful that the Minister of Transportation will address this; I know she said she would, but so far she hasn’t.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Ms. Jill Andrew: I’m glad to rise today, on behalf of our community members in St. Paul’s, on government Bill 282, the Moving Ontarians More Safely Act.
I have the distinction in this House of probably being the only person who is going to talk about this bill from the place of being a pedestrian, because I don’t drive. So I’m not driving on highways, per se; I’m usually in the back seat, or I’m on the TTC, or I’m on the train or on a subway or whatnot.
I’ll give you a little bit of a story, since we’ve all been telling personal stories. I was once a kid—surprise—in the back seat while my mom was driving. She had borrowed my aunt’s car. We had a car accident—that was in the 1980s—and she stopped driving. She never drove after that.
In 1991, my first year of high school, I will never forget Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the car. I’m sure we all had that in our assemblies at different high schools—the car that would come to the school as part of the assembly, to teach you the perils, the consequences of drunk driving. I tell you, there isn’t a Coke can that could ever be as squeezed, as damaged, as unrecognizable as that car that came to my high school in 1991.
Then, to top it off, in 1997 I was coming from Humber College at the time, with an old friend—we’ve lost touch, but he was a great friend back in the day—and we had an accident right at Eglinton and Allen, in St. Paul’s, ironically. That accident shook me to the core. What happened to the car? We sped around a few times on black ice and we were hit, and it was pretty significant. We both walked away with our lives. He was in the hospital for a week or so. I can’t remember the exact dates. I was not in the hospital, but I was pretty banged up and scratched.
I say all of that to say this: You don’t have to drive to care about road safety; you simply have to be a person who wants to stay alive, who wants your community members to stay alive.
I also want to share with you the story of Evangeline Lauroza. Evangeline lost her life in 2019, in our community of St. Paul’s, in the Yonge and Eglinton area, where she was dragged several metres by a cement truck before it stopped and realized what had happened. She is survived by her sister. She is survived by her family in the Philippines. She was a woman who was very dedicated to her church family.
I know for certain that road safety would matter to Evangeline’s life. It certainly mattered to the city. It mattered to our community, which fought hard at the end of 2019 to get a construction hub coordination pilot started, where we could start seeing some sort of transit management to ensure that areas that have a lot of density would be safe.
Of course, the truth of the matter is, when there are a lot of trucks because of construction in your community, it makes your community pretty unwalkable. It makes it really difficult to be safe, cutting through intersections—even some of the local roads, the so-called slower roads that are really congested because of all the trucks, because of all the construction and—I have to say this—because of even some non-essential construction that’s still happening during the pandemic. So much so that I know some of our local city councillors have called for the hiring of full-time pedestrian crossing guards even at construction sites to ensure that folks are safe and sound.
Again, road safety is crucial. It is absolutely important. And stunt driving: I’m not even going to pretend to say that I’ve ever witnessed it or that I have a friend who’s done it; it’s just not part of my reality, right? But what I will say is that anyone who loses their life or anyone who hurts someone by being a bad driver—if this is part of their reality, as I’ve certainly heard in this House, it’s something that we should address.
Do I think it’s the issue of the moment? Do I think that here in Ontario, across the last year or so, stunt driving has been the issue in the news every single day? No. We know what the issue in the news every single day has been. We know what thousands of people here in the province of Ontario have died from in a very short period of time. We know the purple elephant in the room. But the government is choosing to focus on stunt driving, which is important, but again, as I’ve said, maybe not exactly the item of urgency in most of our constituents’ minds here today.
In terms of keeping road safety front and centre in our minds, I have to again express to you what the issue of density does for road safety. In the Yonge-Eglinton corridor, we probably have, I don’t know, maybe 19,000 or 20,000 constituents right there, with another 25,000 or so coming right behind us in a couple of years, based on the construction that’s been approved. So when all of that happens, while you have an Ontario Line that’s delayed by this government, while you have the Eglinton Crosstown LRT mess where work on that project has cost more, taken longer—it’s been delayed with this government; it’s been delayed with the last government. Going along Eglinton in some cases, you have one lane to work with. So it’s the Eglinton 34 bus or the 32 bus, plus the construction truck, plus the beam that we hear at 3:30 in the morning. That’s when I was woken up yesterday, with the noise of the construction in the area at 3:30 in the morning.
All of that to say, when we’re talking about keeping roads safe, I think the government has to really also prioritize public transit. We live in a very urban midtown. Sidewalks are very busy—quite frankly too busy in my opinion, considering we are in a pandemic and ideally folks should be staying at home as much as possible. But we’re also a vibrant community with businesses and restaurants, and I know that everyone wants to shop local. We’re trying to do so, socially distanced and following all of the protocols. But I just need the government to consider the impact of delayed public transit development, the impact of all of this construction.
I remember writing to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing a while back, in 2019, about the official plan amendment 405, Midtown in Focus. This is something that community fought for. This is something that the community was proud of. It’s not that the community was against development. None of us are against development, but our concern is about these condos that spread out like weeds, 60 storeys high. And let’s face it, none of this is affordable housing, that’s for sure, and it sure as heck ain’t supportive housing, even during a pandemic. But we don’t have the sidewalks. We don’t have the schools. We don’t have the infrastructure to manage that size of density.
The number one thing is, if we don’t have the proper funding to our public transit system, then we’re stuck with a lot of people on the road. We’re stuck with a lot of car congestion. We’re stuck with a lot of angry drivers, quite frankly, which can also lead to road rage. That’s a whole other conversation, but the point of the matter is that there are some things in this bill that I support. I think we need to have more penalties, quite frankly, stronger penalties, for people whose bad behaviour, by their own choice, their own volition, causes physical harm or death of someone who’s simply trying to get from point A to B.
I’m also impressed to see that the government has been inspired by the MPP from University–Rosedale, the MPP from Davenport and the MPP from Oshawa—all of whom have put forth legislation that the government could have passed, I don’t know, a year ago or 10 years ago, according to my colleague from York South–Weston, and didn’t pass it. I guess maybe it’s politics, partisan, whatever. But it’s good to see that at least the government has listened to the NDP and that these three pieces around dooring, around the cameras in streetcars—I’ve almost been hit a million times because I forget when I get out of the streetcar to look both ways sometimes, which we all should do. I’m glad to see that, but I’m hoping that the government will continue the trend and include some of the amendments that we definitely will be bringing to Bill 282.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Questions?
Mr. Dave Smith: Thank you to the member. It’s always interesting to hear the different perspectives. I come from a predominantly rural riding. The apartment that I have here in Toronto actually has more people living in it than my hometown does.
The member talked about stunt driving and how it’s not a big deal for a lot of people. I would say that it is a big deal in a lot of the rural parts of Ontario. I’ll talk about two in particular. We had a 17-year-old coming up the 115 to do their G2 licence, doing 158 kilometres in a 100-kilometre zone. We had a 17-year-old doing 162 kilometres in a 100-kilometre zone. Stunt driving is real. Stunt driving kills people. And we need to keep people out of the hospital.
Will the member support this bill and vote in favour of it? Because stopping that stunt driving, stopping that—I’ve referred to it once before as idiot behaviour. It is idiot behaviour, and doing something to stop that is good, even during COVID. Will the member support this bill?
Ms. Jill Andrew: First of all, the government has twisted my words, which I guess is par for the course in politics. I never said that stunt driving is no big deal. I never said that. What I said is within the context of COVID-19, it is certainly not the priority issue that the majority of Ontarians in all of our ridings are speaking about and worried about right now.
I would never suggest—because if I lost someone from stunt driving, if any of us lost someone, it might be our number one issue for the rest of our lives. So do I support any piece of legislation that’s going to help us keep our roads safer? That sounds pretty good to me. But the point of the matter is there are also other ways that this government can work to keep Ontarians, to keep workers, to keep truckers, to keep the essential workers who are driving on the highways that my friend the member from Windsor is seeing—there are many ways that you can keep them safe, and you haven’t.
So before you twist my words, let’s just try to keep it above the belt. Thanks.
Mr. Kevin Yarde: I want to thank the member for Toronto–St. Paul’s for her speech. You mentioned off the top that you’re not a driver. So I just want to offer, if ever you need a ride, just give me a call and I’ll come pick you up and take you to the store or wherever you have to go.
We’re talking about stunt driving today. As you mentioned, it’s a very important subject matter, even though the government side disagrees with you; I’m surprised they disagree with you. But you mentioned we need strong enforcement and we need deterrents.
Now, public transit is a big, big deal in your riding, of course, and you talked about the delayed public transit development. So what does that lead to in terms of safety in your riding?
Ms. Jill Andrew: Thank you to the member from Brampton for your question. As I was mentioning, when we have delays in public transit, when we have delays in development, in infrastructure like we’ve had with this government—I mean, shortly after we got elected, we had a transit plan. The Premier tore it up, because it had to have, I guess, his name on it or whatnot, and wasted time and wasted dollars. What that has meant is delays in building, in development, in infrastructure. What that means is there are more people on the streets. Our sidewalks are more crowded, our streets are more crowded, and that can be very dangerous. It can be incredibly dangerous when people aren’t able to move safely because of that crowd even during the pandemic.
Again, when you have all of the construction from the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, in many cases we’re down to a lane or it’s a bottleneck situation. Everyone’s rushing to work. No one can be late, at least those who are not in “privileged jobs” where they can walk in whenever they want, and everyone wants to go somewhere, so we want to get them there safely. In order for us to have safe roads, we have to equally invest in transportation. We know that public transit here in Toronto has been shortchanged, I don’t know, $700 million or so by this government.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The next question?
Mr. Vijay Thanigasalam: This bill, the MOMS Act: The centerpiece of this bill is road safety, whether it’s stunt driving or whether it’s bicycle collisions from dooring in urban centres or whether it’s about the safety of people who use streetcars—the drivers who pass by streetcars when there are doors open. Again, it’s about the oversight of our tow truck industry. When someone calls for a tow truck, they want the tow truck driver to have the best interests of the customer, not anything else. So at the end of the day, this bill—and both sides of the House are showing the sign to support this bill, to reduce risks and increase the protection for road users and also vulnerable road users such as pedestrians. Having said this, as the centerpiece is safety, will the member opposite support this bill, and support introducing this bill at this time, because in the last one year, stunt driving has skyrocketed?
Ms. Jill Andrew: Again, I support road safety. I support the people who drive on those roads. I support the people who transport our food. I support the essential workers who are on those roads that you want to make safe. But I also think we can make the roads safe and the people safe simultaneously. I do believe that they’re inextricably linked.
Again, the bill has some good merits. We have certainly raised the points in which we will want to share some amendments, and we certainly hope, in the same vein that you have incorporated some of our MPPs’ legislation that you clearly liked, that you will continue that. I personally hope that maybe you will give some of those NDP MPPs the credit that they’re due as well for also caring about road safety.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The next question?
Ms. Doly Begum: I want to thank the member from Toronto–St. Paul’s for her remarks. My question is, as someone who may be vulnerable on the streets at times—and just on Tuesday, at Main and Danforth, we had someone who was actually crossing the intersection and lost her life, was hit by a dump truck. This is the third incident, I believe, in the last couple of days. So my question is, are there things that you would have liked to see—I know some of our members have proposed some great measures as well in this Legislature—that you would like to speak to?
Ms. Jill Andrew: To the member from Scarborough–Southwest: I know the story that you’re talking about. I believe this person who was hit by a dump truck—I think they were actually using a wheelchair, if I’m not mistaken. Without knowing the particulars of that case, it’s just really hard to consider the person losing their life while using a wheelchair. That’s terrible.
In terms of what I’d like to see in the bill, I definitely would like to see stiffer penalties, quite frankly, for those who are making selfish decisions, for those who are engaging in bad driving, and I want those penalties to reflect their choices. I do think that this particular bill is a little light on that, so I certainly would think that that’s one of the things that we would want to amend.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Time for one last quick question and response, if there is one.
Mme France Gélinas: What would you see as improving road safety that was most important to people like you who walk—who don’t drive but walk? What would you like to see in this bill?
Ms. Jill Andrew: Thank you very much to the member from Nickel Belt for that question. You know, for us, we have complained over and over again about overdevelopment, quite frankly. Overdevelopment congests our streets, it congests our intersections—even our local streets, where you’d think it’s okay for little Johnny to go play with a puppy, and all of a sudden there’s a cement truck, right? I really think that we have to keep in mind the issues of density in highly dense areas. We have to know when to put pauses on construction. I think certainly at a time like a pandemic, where this government should be closing non-essential workplaces and should be closing non-essential construction sites—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much.
Further debate? Further debate? Further debate?
Ms. Mulroney has moved second reading of Bill 282, An Act in respect of various road safety matters. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Second reading agreed to.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Shall the bill be ordered for third reading? Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: I’ll refer it to the Standing Committee on General Government.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The bill is therefore referred to the Standing Committee on General Government.
Orders of the day? Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: No further business.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): There being no further business, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow morning at 9 o’clock.
The House adjourned at 2103.