November 16, 2023

Bill 40 at Queen’s Park

Today marked the first time I visited Queen’s Park in more than 20 years to witness the debate for MPP Joel Harden’s Bill 40 (a.k.a. Moving Ontarians Safely Act). This is the latest attempt in a decade to enact legislation to hold drivers accountable when they kill or seriously injure vulnerable road users such as pedestrians or cyclists. Ahead of this bill, MPP Harden biked from Ottawa to Toronto to hear about road safety concerns from residents along the way. You can read Jun’s blog post about the Safety Ride here, while I wrote a previous piece about the bill and other measures we need to fight for at Queen’s Park.

Unlike Toronto’s council chambers, you cannot bring your cell phones or even pens/papers when entering the seating gallery of the legislature. Therefore, I was unable to do a live tweet of today’s events, but will recall as much as I can.

Shortly after clearing security at Queen’s Park and grabbing some coffee, a dozen of us road safety advocates went into the media room for the 9:00 AM Bill 40 press conference. The main speakers were MPP Joel Harden, Jess Spieker of Friends & Families for Safe Streets, Azfer Syed who lost his brother Abu Bakr to road violence, and Patrick Brown of Bike Law Canada. This was the last photo I took prior to entering the seating gallery.

Here is a group photo of several Ontario NDP MPP’s and road safety advocates courtesy of MPP Bhutila Karpoche’s office. Other attendees include Alison Stewart of Cycle Toronto, Bob Murphy of the Brain Injury Society of Toronto, Jonathan Schmidt of Toronto East Cyclists, Janice Jim of Cycle WR, Peggy Hawthorne of United Seniors Citizens of Ontario, and Rick Harrington of the Durham Region Cycling Coalition. A special shout out is deserved for Peggy who drove three hours from Wasaga Beach for this occasion.

During the morning sitting, one main observation I noted was the term “carbon tax” was used so often that if it was turned into a drinking game, we would have died of alcohol poisoning before lunch. Not just during Question Period, but there was some debate regarding the carbon tax and the possibility of removing the HST on home heating before member statements at 10:15 AM. I found Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner was very eloquent with his arguments on green investments, while Progressive Conservative House Leader Paul Calandra made me chuckle even though I flat out disagree with his party. I also noted debates on legislation allow speakers to speak a lot longer than during Toronto City Council debates with the clock sometimes allowing up to twenty minutes.

The member statements session allowed fifteen minutes for MPP’s of all parties to make announcements with respect to their ridings and are timed to 90 seconds each. The member statements were followed by the acknowledgement of audience members by MPP’s prior to the start of Question Period. MPP Harden acknowledged the presence of us road safety advocates and it was the first time my “Two Wheeled Politics” blog was name dropped at Queen’s Park! Achievement unlocked, I guess? 😉

Question Period lasted about an hour and is sheer political theatre with lots of heckling and shouting down the other side. Some of the discussed topics include the inability of smaller pharmacies to provide vaccines which Liberal MPP Mary-Margaret McMahon & NDP MPP France Gelinas brought up, the RCMP investigation over the Greenbelt which NDP Leader Marit Stiles said made the PC’s uncomfortable, and NDP MPP Peggy Sattler’s calling out of government underfunding of their post-secondary institutions. The remark that drew the most heckling was from recently elected Liberal MPP Karen McCrimmon who stated the federal carbon tax is good given most people get more back than they are taxed through the Climate Action Incentive. The Progressive Conservatives were deflecting a lot as usual, while the remark that stuck the most was from Calandra in which he claimed the Liberals would build a bridge upside down. There was even a “Justinflation” mention from Progressive Conservative MPP Vijay Thanigasalam which originated from federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre regarding last years’ high inflation.

There was a second reading vote on Bill 146 (Building a Stronger Ontario Act) which passed unanimously (95-0) before we had lunch. When a vote is about to be held, a five-minute warning is issued with constant bell noise and then nobody can get in or out after the five minutes. The MPP’s then stand to be recognized for their votes.

After lunch, I went back home to walk Mozzie and returned to Queen’s Park in time for the 6:00 PM debate on Bill 40. MPP Harden started his presentation of the bill in which he cited other jurisdictions such as Oregon having some form of vulnerable road user legislation, as well as how many drivers get away with small fines today. Progressive Conservative MPP Hardeep Singh Grewal used most of his time to talk about the previous MOMS (Moving Ontarians More Safely) Act and how Ontario’s roads are among the top five safest jurisdictions in North America. He mentioned the possibility of incorporating elements of Bill 40 into the government’s own future transportation bill; meaning they may end up voting against it. NDP MPP’s Doly Begum and Bhutila Karpoche also spoke in support of the bill highlighting the 2021 death of a 17-year-old in Scarborough Southwest and Jess Spieker’s survival of a crash from 2015. Liberal MPP Stephen Blais talked about the importance of Vision Zero policies implemented in cities across Ontario but had some concerns about the term “vulnerable road user” and wanted drivers who kill or injure anyone – including other drivers or passengers – to be subject to similar treatment.

Unfortunately, the PC’s denied unanimous consent for the bill; meaning the vote would take place on Monday. Given this delay, I have an urgent call to action; especially for those of you who live in Progressive Conservative ridings. Please call and/or e-mail your MPP tomorrow or during the weekend and urge them to pass Bill 40. It doesn’t make sense to wait for the government’s own transportation bill since we don’t know when that would happen or if they would actually follow through with including elements of Bill 40.

I will close this post off with this video from MPP Joel Harden, as well as a reminder to attend Sunday’s World Day of Remembrance event if you are able to.

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