03/10/2015

Remarks by: Gary McNamara, AMO President and Mayor, Town of Tecumseh March 9, 2015 at 2:45 p.m. Ontario Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on General Government Bill 31, Transportation Statute Law Amendment Act (Making Ontario’s Roads Safer), 2015

Bill 31, Transportation Statute Law Amendment Act (Making Ontario’s Roads Safer), 2015
 
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Gary McNamara, President of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and with me is Craig Reid, Senior Advisor, Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

Introduction

Thank you to the members of the Committee on General Government for the opportunity to speak with you today.  It is a pleasure to be here.

Bill 31, the Transportation Statute Law Amendment Act, 2015 is Omnibus legislation and I understand there has been a thorough debate with 68 MPPs speaking on it for nearly 14 hours.

That is encouraging.  I know that the ideas in the Bill came from all of the parties and I appreciate the time and consideration that you have put into it.

While this Bill is broad – including vehicle inspections, distracted driving, pedestrian crossings and other worthy subjects – I intend to address my comments to two aspects as I am limited to five minutes. These are:

  1. The importance of the Provincial Offences Act amendments; and
  2. Cycling safety considerations.
1.    Provincial Offences Act

Regarding the changes to the Provincial Offences Act, I want to tell you why AMO and our members support them and why they are so important.

You may have heard that municipal governments have uncollected POA fines in the order of $1 billion.  That is a significant number and it took a long time, decades, to accumulate.  Municipalities have been waiting almost as long for the solution.

Think for a moment about all the things municipal governments do –from roads and transit; clean water; recreation; social housing; and emergency services to name a few. Over the years things might have been a little bit easier on our property taxpayers if these uncollected fines had been available.

But let me be clear: these uncollected fines will NOT solve our infrastructure gap and if better fine collection deters people from breaking the rules, then the revenues will decline.

So this is not a discussion about more money.  In our mind, this discussion is actually about equity and the administration of justice. The rules are set and apply to everyone but our current compliance tools mean that some are able to ignore them without penalty.

The ability to hold these people to account by denying their license plates and pursuing out-of-province drivers, sets a level playing field and ensures fairness to our residents.  And that is the important thing.  

But, let us also recall that these rules are just the start.  If this legislation is passed, there will then be much work to be done to implement the changes through procedures and changes to IT systems.  If there is one thing local governments have learned, it is that good implementation is just as important as good public policy.

So, on behalf of municipalities’ governments, I urge you to approve these changes and I urge the Province to work with municipalities immediately to work on the implementation plan so we do not lose any more time.  

2.    Cycling

Next I would like to address the Bill’s focus on cycling.

As I’m sure you know, cycling is a growing mode of transportation in many communities.  Some residents do it for fun, others for health, the environment and transportation.

Whatever the reasons we should applaud them.  Communities where residents can choose to safely drive or bike or even walk enjoy the quality of life many people look for when they choose a home or hometown.  And communities where kids can safely ride and walk are those in which parents can rest a little bit easier.

But, these changes – safe passing distances, bicycle lighting, paved shoulders for cycling, bicycle signals and contra-flow bike lanes – not only help to make cyclists safer, they make drivers safer as well by reducing road conflicts and interaction.  In turn this helps to optimize transportation systems and promote health and recreation.

However, much remains to be done.  We also need investment in cycling tracks, trails and facilities.  The government has announced a cycling infrastructure fund.  Our communities look forward to accessing this and we hope it will be the first installment to support cycling projects.

Conclusion

I have spoken about two specific aspects of this legislation that affect municipalities.  I know there are many more that deserve attention but my time is short.  So municipal governments are looking to you to get this right so that we can continue to offer safe roads; vital links to our social and economic life.

I’m pleased to see the debate and the cooperation in the Legislature on this Bill to date.  I urge you to work together to send this Bill back to the Legislature for approval as soon as possible.

Thank you.