News / Toronto

Advocates disappointed as Queen's Park votes down vulnerable road users act

Private member's bill would've made it mandatory for guilty drivers to attend court sentencing as well as perform community service related to road safety.

Police investigate the spot where a cyclist was killed on Dixie Road, south of Mayfield Road, in December last year. Queen's Park voted last week against a proposal for a vulnerable road users law.

Bernard Weil / Torstar News Service Order this photo

Police investigate the spot where a cyclist was killed on Dixie Road, south of Mayfield Road, in December last year. Queen's Park voted last week against a proposal for a vulnerable road users law.

A private member's bill that would have made Ontario the first province in Canada with a vulnerable road users law has been quashed.

The legislature's Justice Policy Committee voted last week against adding proposals from the NDP's Cheri DiNovo to Bill 174 seeking to toughen penalties for distracted and dangerous drivers.

"For us it's really disappointing because it would have accelerated things," said Patrick Brown, president of Bike Law Canada and one of the city's prominent road-safety advocates. "Right now the system is so broken. We're tired of these small fines being handed out, people killing and seriously injuring people and almost getting away with it."

Through the new legislation, expected to take effect by 2019, the Liberal government wants to increase fines: up to a maximum of $50,000 for careless drivers who kill or injure pedestrians, cyclists, road construction workers or emergency responders. Such drivers would also face a two-year jail term and have their licences suspended for five years.

DiNovo's failed private member's bill would have taken it a step further. She and other road-safety advocates wanted guilty drivers to perform community service related to road safety and undergo re-education before they're allowed back behind the wheel.

In addition, the act would require such offenders to attend court for sentencing and hear victim impact statements.

That's something Beaches-East York Liberal MPP Arthur Potts, one of the committee members who voted against the amendment, regrets not having in the bill.

"It's unfortunate that we didn't have a chance to bring that amendment forward. It should be absolutely mandatory," he said. "If they had been more strategic and brought in that as a standalone amendment, it would have been successful."

Potts said he and other Liberals voted against DiNovo's bill only because they were asked to adopt it in its entirety, while most of what it proposes is already covered in their ongoing proposals.

Judges already have the authority to impose penalties such as licence suspension or driver retraining, he said, and putting that in the new bill would be "redundant."

For Brown, the vote against the vulnerable road users act is simply a failure to recognize the gravity of the situation.

"We'll keep fighting for it. They can't ignore what everybody is asking for," he said, noting the City of Toronto unanimously supported the act, and major active transportation organizations, lawyers and brain-injury associations want the law passed.

"The encompassing thing that needs to be done is to send a message that this is not acceptable."

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