This is page numbers 6849 - 6882 of the Hansard for the 16th Assembly, 6th Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was safety.

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Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. At this time I’d like to ask the Minister if he’ll be bringing in any witnesses. Mr. McLeod.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Michael McLeod Deh Cho

Yes, Mr. Chair.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair David Krutko

Does committee agree?

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair David Krutko

Sergeant-at-Arms, escort the witnesses in.

For the record, Mr. Minister, can you introduce your witnesses.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

August 22nd, 2011

Michael McLeod Deh Cho

Mr. Chairman, on my left is Mr. Russell Neudorf, deputy minister of the Department of Transportation. On my right is Ms. Kelly McLaughlin -- sorry, Mr. Chairman, on my right is Ian Rennie, legislative counsel with the Department of Justice.

---Laughter

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Minister. Welcome, witnesses. General comments. Ms. Bisaro.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Wendy Bisaro Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I think it’s a good thing that the Minister is not sitting in a car.

---Laughter

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I’d like to say at the outset that I’m extremely pleased to see that these amendments have finally come to this point. I think it’s a good start. I am one of those people who believe that we ought to be also legislating against the use of hands-free devices in a vehicle. They’ve been proven to be as distracting as many other things. I know the Minister feels that it is covered under the Motor Vehicles Act under penalties for distracted driving. I would hope that in a year or two’s time that we will do an evaluation of the effect of this particular change in our Motor Vehicles Act and that we will evaluate the effect that banning cell phones has had and consider banning hands-free as well.

I think it’s important to note that the NWT Association of Communities supports this bill and they wrote to committee and also, I believe, to the Minister, to express that support. They represent all of our communities and I think this is an issue that is going to affect all NWT residents no matter where they reside.

I also noted at the end of June of this year there was a little note in the Yellowknifer paper on the 29

of June from the RCMP urging motorists not to

use cell phones, that summer was coming up and kids were out of school. They, as well, recognized the dangers of driving and using cell phones at the same time. They see the results of accidents that occur. It’s a small wonder that the RCMP is supporting this kind of a change.

Certainly I will not be voting against this motion, but again I do hope that in a couple of years’ time there is an evaluation of the effect that this ban is having on our traffic accidents, and that we will then consider to make it even more restrictive for people driving distractedly and put greater penalties in place.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Ms. Bisaro. I’ll allow for all the individuals to make general comments and then we’ll go to the Minister for responses. Next I have Mr. Bromley.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Bob Bromley Weledeh

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate this opportunity to comment on this legislation. I want to start by saying that I’m pleased to see this legislation come forward. This legislation does begin to address the many, many constituent concerns that have been raised from my Weledeh constituents who have had near misses as they’re walking along the road, some in vehicles. This is a real concern and I believe this is a sincere effort on the side of the department to address this.

Unfortunately, however -- and I cite largely the material provided by the department here -- this doesn’t go far enough. Citing from these documents, the first thing I want to note is that a consistent message in the literature is that hands-free cell phone use when driving is no safer than handheld use.

Parsing into that a little bit and looking at the credibility of the research behind that statement, I want to note that the Canadian Automobile Association, the CAA, has argued that it is not enough to ban drivers from using handheld cell phones, because research shows that hands-free devices are just as dangerous. My concern here is that our public will have a false sense of security. I want to basically let them know that this is a good start but they cannot afford to let their guard down when they’re out walking, because of this legislation. There’s no evidence that this goes far enough.

Another example, the most recent study published on January 29, 2010, by the U.S. Highway Loss Data Institute highlights the concern that handheld cell phone bans offer little real safety benefit. The department has also provided me with information research from the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety which has shown that drivers have a false perception that hands-free devices are safer. They point out that the conversation is the primary distraction and not the device itself.

Complicating the use or the matter of parsing this out is the lack of statistics respecting how effective the law is in reducing the number of jurisdictions. So whereas research shows this it’s very difficult to demonstrate it on the basis of statistics, that’s largely because there are no jurisdictions currently collecting specific data on collisions caused by cell

phone use. I want to acknowledge that that is a challenge. What is tragic here is that I have not yet heard the Minister commit to any effort to gather statistics for the basis of an evaluation on which this legislation could be improved, if the evaluation demonstrates it needs to be. Having made this point, I want to ask the Minister again, will the department collect the appropriate statistics to enable them to evaluate the effect of this legislation and return to it to bump it up as that evaluation indicates.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair David Krutko

Next I have Mr. Abernethy and Mr. Hawkins. Mr. Abernethy.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Bob Bromley Weledeh

Excuse me, Mr. Chair. I’d like an answer to that question.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

We were going through...

---Interjection

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair David Krutko

As we began, I noted, after Ms. Bisaro, that I will allow all individuals to speak and allow the Minister to answer the questions after you do your general comments. Mr. Abernethy.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think this is an important piece of legislation. I’m glad to see it finally coming through. I thank the Minister and the department for doing the work to bring it forward, including the research that was identified and quoted from by my colleague Mr. Bromley. Every one of us I think has seen or almost been involved in an incident resulting from somebody who is driving while distracted. The incidents that I’ve witnessed have almost always been when somebody’s texting, which is a significant distraction, in my mind, and/or dialling a phone. I’ve seen a number of them a lot closer than I’d like to have seen. So I’m happy that this piece of legislation is coming through. I think it’s important. I think it’s a great first step. Eventually we may get to the point that my colleagues are talking about, but for now I think this is a really good first step and I’m happy that the department is taking it. Those are my general comments.