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Crucial Fact

Last in the Legislative Assembly October 2011, as MLA for Deh Cho

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters August 22nd, 2011

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, also, to all the Members that made comments. This issue of distracted driving has certainly come forward as an emerging issue. When it was raised here several years ago there has been a lot of research done in here with distracted driving. We’ve had many organizations -- the NWT Association of Communities, we had the RCMP, people from SADD, the city -- come forward and bring some information that would support the need for new legislation. We also, of course, had many of the MLAs raise the issue and bring examples and also concerns by residents of the North to our attention.

We worked hard to try to find a balance on this piece of legislation. We know some people are not totally satisfied that it didn’t go far enough. There are so many things you can include in a piece of legislation such as distracted driving. You can include drinking coffee. You can also include smoking a cigarette or putting on makeup, animals, children in a vehicle. We always encourage that every driver should minimize distractions. The proposed legislation reflects common current best

practices from legislation from all across Canada and since last year there are probably about seven jurisdictions that have adopted similar legislation. So we’re seeking a balance between enforcing safety and making sure that it is enforceable, and we’re also mindful of the fact that we’ve got to obtain public support.

There has been a question raised about how do we measure effectiveness of this legislation, and right now there is currently information that’s collected by the RCMP, and the information that’s collected on collisions also includes information on driver distractions as a potential cause in the collision. We also summarize these statistics in our annual reports. Transport Canada also currently conducts surveys in each jurisdiction that reports not only on cell phone use but on seatbelts. We also will be conducting roadside surveys like we do with our seatbelt information. We also intend to evaluate the effectiveness of this legislation in probably two to three years when we have enough statistics.

The question that was raised about winter roads, right now this legislation provides the authority for regulations to be developed to exempt certain classes of users from law, and it can also show how the device may be used. So it’s intended to develop regulations to permit the handheld two-way radios on winter roads, but at the same time we still expect people that are out on winter roads that are using handheld devices, to stop and pull over.

With the question on animals in the vehicle, right now we still have legislation, Section 154 of the Motor Vehicles Act, Driving Without Due Care and Attention, as a tool that can be utilized to discourage that. We certainly can relay the concerns from the Member.

We are also supportive of the SADD organization, Students Against Drunk Driving. We know that there are some areas of the Northwest Territories that don’t have a chapter. We certainly support any initiatives. Of course, it needs a champion in that region to pick it up and make it work, but we certainly would support any type of initiatives of that nature. We intend to have this campaign in all of our communities, the larger centres and smaller communities. I think we have a very effective campaign planned that will not only go through this year but also next year so that people are well aware that this is a concern, and our goal is to reduce the number of accidents that are happening and have people pull over or not use any electronic devices while they’re driving. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters August 22nd, 2011

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 August 22nd, 2011

Yes, Mr. Chairman, I do. Mr. Chairman, I’m pleased to present Bill 16, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, which addresses the issue of distracted driving posing a restriction on the use of handheld electronic devices, such as cell phones, music players, tablet devices, and personal digital systems while driving. This bill also proposes a raise in the threshold for mandatory reporting of a collision from $1,000 to $2,000 and provides a mechanism to restrict services for unpaid fines under the Deh Cho Bridge Act.

We will be joining 11 other Canadian jurisdictions in prohibiting the use of handheld electronic devices while driving. This legislation is not just for cell phones, it restricts all handheld electronic devices that could increase the risk of a collision if used while driving. This action supports our continued efforts to improve road safety in the Northwest Territories.

In our consultations we have heard growing concern about the number of collisions and near misses that occur because someone was paying more attention to their phone or other device than to their driving. Both the enforcement community and municipal governments have indicated their support for this legislation.

I continue to believe that public information and education is important to produce long-term changes in behaviour. This past January our Drive Alive program launched its Leave the Phone Alone pledge campaign which will continue this fall with the distribution of our new poster. We will also be working with Radio Taiga to prepare a French language campaign. I encourage all Members to take the pledge to leave the phone alone while driving, and more pledge stickers are available for any interested Members. With the help of the department, members of Students Against Drinking and Driving, or SADD, will also be creating distracted driving radio public safety announcements.

Bill 16 also addresses accident reporting. The property damage threshold for reporting accidents to the policy is being raised from $1,000 to $2,000.

This threshold is nationally harmonized by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, of which the Northwest Territories is a member. The amended threshold supports our continued contribution to statistical reporting based on common national standards.

The third set of amendments addresses service restrictions for unpaid fines. Under the Motor Vehicles Act, services like vehicle registration and driver licensing may be withheld from clients with outstanding fines under our acts and regulations. Bill 16 extends this list to outstanding fines under the Deh Cho Bridge Act and its regulations. This will ensure consistency in our policies.

I would also note that if this bill is approved, the department would plan to bring this legislation into force on January 1, 2012, providing time needed to draft the required regulations pursuant to this bill, and to inform drivers about the upcoming changes.

Together, these amendments advance our continuing goal of improving road safety for all NWT residents and visitors to our territory. Thank you.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters August 22nd, 2011

Mr. Chairman, on my left I have Mr. Russell Neudorf, deputy minister of the Department of Transportation, and on my right I have Ms. Kelly McLaughlin, legislative counsel with the Department of Justice.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters August 22nd, 2011

Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to present Bill 15, An Act to Amend the Deh Cho Bridge Act, which proposes amendments to update the act to reflect changes and advancements in the Deh Cho Bridge project. The Deh Cho Bridge will provide all-day, year-round access across the Mackenzie River, replacing the operations of the Merv Hardie Ferry and the Mackenzie River ice crossing, and this bill makes three main amendments to support these future operations.

First, all reference to the Deh Cho Bridge Fund is being removed. This special fund is no longer needed, now that the Government of the Northwest Territories has assumed control of the project.

We are also implementing shared liability for tolls. This means that both the registered vehicle owner and the driver may be liable for tolling offences. An automated toll collection system is in development and will allow for more efficient trucking operations by not requiring all commercial vehicles to stop and pay their toll on site. To ensure proper enforcement as part of this system, we require the ability to charge either the driver or the registered owner of the vehicle for tolling offences.

Finally, Bill 15 provides the authority to make regulations respecting the use of commercial

vehicle transponders. A transponder is an industry-standard device that receives and transmits a radio signal to identify an individual vehicle to a computer system. When a commercial driver uses a transponder, our computer will identify the vehicle for a toll, allowing the driver to continue without delay. Transponders will also reduce administrative burdens on both the department and commercial operators.

Mr. Chair, these are relatively minor administrative amendments, but they are also necessary to reflect changes to the project and for the department to move forward with implementation of the toll collection system. Thank you.

Question 171-16(6): Programs To Address Distracted Driving August 22nd, 2011

We ask the Member to be patient. We will have the information ready as soon as we have confirmation and we know that all the legislation is in place. We will be stepping up our initiatives through the public for information on their legislation, and that information will also be on the website as soon as possible. Thank you.

Question 171-16(6): Programs To Address Distracted Driving August 22nd, 2011

The answer is yes and yes and yes. I understand the Member’s sense of urgency wanting to have this advertised and documented. We have the plans to do so. We had wanted to have the legislation passed first, prior to getting this out in the public. We have started, and I’m sure the Member will be happy to see, further information being provided.

Question 171-16(6): Programs To Address Distracted Driving August 22nd, 2011

The campaign is very important to the department or we wouldn’t be doing it. There are a number of strategies and tactics that we have committed to provide. We need to get the information out into the public. Some of it we’ve already started. I certainly can provide a detailed information package to the Member.

We are, as I indicated, providing information to each community in the Northwest Territories. We have a window sticker campaign that is ongoing right now. We have news releases that are being developed on the new distracted driving law when and after the legislation takes effect. We have plans for public service announcements on CBC’s Northbeat. On CKLB we’re taking out ads and in the newspaper, to promote awareness about the new law. We have a social media campaign using Facebook ads. We have a brochure that’s going to be distributed. We’re providing, as I said earlier, money to Students Against Drunk Driving so that they can do public service announcements. We’re also going to involve the Students Against Drunk Driving in most of our public campaigns on distracted driving. We have, and are creating, a public service announcement for CBC TV website and radio. We have the French language version for radio also. We’re providing funding for school media studies and for professional assistance. We’re working with the enforcement people, the municipal people, the RCMP, and we want to start an advertising blitz in advance of back to school. There are a lot of things we’re doing, and certainly we can provide that in further detail to the Member if she’d like that.