Will ICBC telematics pilot change driver behaviour?

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74 year old man taking driving test killed after train strikes car in Montreal

MONTREAL _ A 74-year-old man taking a driving test in Montreal was killed Tuesday when a commuter train struck the car he was driving.

The examiner, an employee of Quebec’s motor vehicle insurance agency, who was seated next to the driver, suffered critical injuries and was taken to hospital.

Police say the collision occurred in the city’s north end at a level railway crossing on Gouin Boulevard, near the river that separates Montreal from its northern suburb.

Mario Vaillancourt, spokesman for the Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec, said the 74-year-old was being re-evaluated for a driver’s license.

Vaillancourt said the type of exam the man was taking “is often tied to someone’s health condition,” though he declined to discuss the specifics of the collision.

“We ask that they take a road test” to evaluate whether the person can still drive safely, Vaillancourt said.

The SAAQ released a statement Tuesday afternoon offering condolences to the 74-year-old’s family. “A team has been deployed … to meet with staff members to provide them with the necessary psychological support,” the agency said.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said it has dispatched an investigator to the railway crossing to gather information about the collision, which occurred around 9:30 a.m.

Montreal police said the driver was transported to hospital in critical condition and died there shortly after, while his 33-year-old passenger was in hospital in critical condition.

No one was injured aboard the train, which is operated by the regional transit agency Exo.

Let’s Block the Road!

When I was posted in the Okanagan in the 1990s I was answering phones in the detachment dispatch office. A caller from Summerland asked what would happen if he decided to take his protest sign down to the highway and conduct his own personal blockade. He expressed the opinion that if he did that the police would arrive quickly and if he did not move he would be removed.I couldn’t argue his point.

This past week has seen a number of blockades of B.C. highways and other places, so I thought that it would be interesting to examine why groups were permitted to disrupt our everyday travels to express a point.

My first stop was the Guide to the Law of Protest published by McGrady Law of Vancouver. This document outlines some history of civil disobedience in B.C., examines a person’s right to protest, outlines how to conduct yourself and how the law may be applied to you when you do.

Next, I contacted the Ministry of Public Safety & Solicitor General via the media contact information. All that they would say beyond the fact that the Motor Vehicle Act did not direct police to dismantle blockades was that the Ministry did not get involved in day to day police operations. When asked about setting government policy all further e-mail was ignored.

Government policy is published in the form of the Crown Counsel Policy Manual on Civil Disobedience and Contempt of Related Court Orders. This guides Crown lawyers in deciding whether they should prosecute protesters or not. I don’t doubt that this guides police decisions as well.

Media relations with the RCMP in B.C. were helpful. They explained that each situation is evaluated separately and that a balance had to be struck between Charter rights, criminal actions, court orders and public safety. Where there is no court order, police can rely on the Criminal Code and common law powers in the event of violence or criminal actions by protesters.

Police resources to cope with the size of the protest group is without a doubt an important consideration.

Finally, the most assistance came from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA):

First of all, regarding the “free passage of traffic”, operating a motor vehicle is a privilege not a right.

Second, streets are blocked off for various reasons on a regular basis. Examples include activities related to the film industry, parades, marathons, and marches. Police are present to ensure that the scene is safe and the traffic is diverted. These events typically occur on main thoroughfares. A double standard applied in the case of lawful protest would be unreasonable.

Third, roads are public places in which political expression can take place. The rights to freedom of expression and assembly are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and are necessary in a free and democratic society. Furthermore, the police have a duty to ensure a safe environment for members of the public to express themselves through non-violent protest and civil disobedience.

Finally, during the course of their duties, police are constantly balancing interests and re-evaluating their discretion. In the event of an emergency, police have the option to use their discretion to clear the way for an emergency vehicle. A court would likely uphold the infringement of Charter-protected rights to allow for the safe passage of an emergency vehicle.

A counter-protest to a blockade on Highway 19 in Courtenay did result in an arrest and an end to the blockade. The original protesters left out of concern for their own safety.

Returning to the inquiry that I mentioned at the start of the article, the BCCLA says that there is no difference between the right of the individual and the right of the group to protest, but I do wonder what would happen.

Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and 10 as a collision analyst responsible for conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web sites.

www.drivesmartbc.ca

SGI: Tougher distracted driving fines take effect Feb. 1

February’s Traffic Safety Spotlight is focused on distracted driving – just as fines are set to increase Feb. 1, 2020.

“Distracted driving is a serious safety concern in our province, and on roads all over the country,” said the Honourable Joe Hargave, Minister Responsible for SGI. “We hope by introducing tougher penalties – and especially strong penalties for repeat offenders – it will mean fewer people driving distracted and fewer tickets issued.”

What’s new: Here are the consequences distracted drivers can expect as of Feb. 1:

  • First offence – ticket more than doubles to $580, plus four demerits.
  • Second offence within a year of being convicted of the first – $1,400 ticket, plus an additional four demerits, plus an immediate, seven-day vehicle seizure. Vehicle owners are responsible for the towing and impound fees (cost varies according to mileage, but expect to pay approximately $400 at least).
  • Third offence within a year of conviction of the first – $2,100 ticket, plus four more demerits and another seven-day vehicle seizure.

The demerits could also cost the driver insurance discounts they had earned or – if they are on the negative side of the SGI Safe Driver Recognition (SDR) scale – additional financial penalties, at $50 for every point below zero.  If a driver started at zero, and received three distracted driving tickets in a year, they would have to pay a total of $1,200 in SDR financial penalties, on top of the other financial impacts.

What’s not changing:  While the cost of a ticket is increasing, the laws around distracted driving remain the same. Hand-held devices are prohibited for learner, novice and experienced drivers, although experienced drivers can use hands-free functions on mounted devices through voice commands or one-touch. The vast majority of distracted driving tickets that are issued by law enforcement are related to cell phone use. In addition, drivers can receive a ticket if an officer witnesses behaviour that they can prove take a driver’s attention away from the road to the point they are operating their vehicle in an unsafe manner.

In 2018, driver distraction or inattention was a factor in more than 6,000 collisions, resulting in 774 injuries and 22 deaths. In 2019, distracted driving set three monthly records for the number of tickets issued.

Have questions about distracted driving? We answered most of them on Facebook. And if you’re looking to avoid a distracted driving ticket, put the phone down behind the wheel – and check out these other tips.

 

Government of Canada helps grain farmers manage risk and build public trust

Grains sector backed to develop export rejection insurance

The excerpted article was written by 

The organization representing Canada’s crops sector will get public funding to develop an insurance plan against the “unpredictability” of export customers.

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, speaking Wednesday at the CropConnect conference in Winnipeg, announced over $430,000 for the Canada Grains Council to develop a pilot insurance product for grain exporters.

Such an insurance plan would go to “address the risks they face of having their shipments rejected at the border of the importing country,” the government said.

Ottawa “wants to insure that grain farmers are protected against the unpredictability of the international market and the risks of regulatory trade barriers, particularly around the input residues on seeds,” the government said in a release.

The council will also get $789,558 toward developing a voluntary “code of practice for farm production of Canadian grains.”

The guidelines to be developed “will help farmers encode the best practices to follow to be considered sustainable, for both market and public trust purposes,” the government said.

The codes for crops would “cover a range of topics, including fertilizer management, pesticide use, soil management, farm workers and protection of wildlife habitat, as well as food safety and work safety.”

‘Market readiness’

The Canada Grains Council, in operation since 1969, represents the crops value chain nationwide and is tasked with spearheading efforts to boost sales and use of Canadian grain in domestic and international markets.

Public money for the CGC’s insurance project will flow through AgriRisk Initiatives (ARI), a five-year, $55 million program to support development of new risk management tools through the federal/provincial; Canadian Agricultural Partnership funding framework.

The code of practice project will be backed via the federal AgriAssurance program, budgeted for up to $74 million over five years to help ag sector groups develop “systems, standards and tools that enable them to make credible, meaningful and verifiable claims about the health and safety of Canadian agricultural and agri-food products, and the manner in which they are produced.”

Codes of practice for production aren’t new to Canada’s ag sector; similar codes for care and handling of various types and breeds of livestock are today being developed and updated by the National Farm Animal Care Council, which was set up in 2005.

The $1.2 million total funding envelope announced Wednesday for the grains council is expected to help address “two key issues facing the sector: better risk management tools and market readiness,” Bibeau said in the government’s release.

“Despite Canada’s solid reputation worldwide as a high-quality and trustworthy provider of grain and oilseed products, we cannot take this for granted,” CGC president Tyler Bjornson said in the same release.

“Exploring new ways to help producers and industry address market access risks, as well as maintain consumer confidence that we are doing the right things to produce sustainable and safe food, are an essential part of our long-term strategy as a sector.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network

Source: AGCanada.com

Federal IT systems at risk of ‘critical failure,’ Trudeau warned in memo

By Jordan Press

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ Newly released briefing notes for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau describe the dire state of federal computer systems, which deliver billions in benefits and are on the precipice of collapse.

Officials briefing Trudeau after his party’s re-election noted  “mission-critical” systems and applications are “rusting out and at risk of failure,” requiring immediate attention from his government.

Some systems are pushing 60 years old and built on “outdated technology” that can no longer be maintained.

The Canadian Press obtained the documents through the Access to Information Act, and much of the text has been blacked out because it is considered sensitive advice to government.

One of the few visible lines says the public service will be working on projects  “to stabilize mission-critical systems.”

The Liberals promised in the fall campaign to improve services for Canadians.

These back-office problems often require long-term spending commitments and improvements that aren’t easily seen by voters, which means they aren’t usually top-of-mind issues for politicians. But there has been a growing belief inside the government that how satisfied citizens are with digital services is linked to how much trust they place in their government.

Nowhere is the issue of antiquated systems more pronounced than Employment and Social Development Canada, which oversees child, parental, senior and employment insurance benefits.

The Liberals have already made multiple changes to the federal social safety net that required programming changes to old systems. The documents to Trudeau suggest the aged systems pose a problem for more changes the Liberals have promised.

“The complex array of existing programs and services means that future program changes, to continue providing Canadians with the programs and services they expect when interacting with their government, will need to account for pressures on legacy IT systems, which are facing rust-out and critical failure,” part of the briefing binder says.

“These aging platforms neither meet the desired digital interaction nor are capable of full automation, and thus are unable to deliver cost-savings through back-office functions.”

For example, the system that runs old age security is almost as old as those now reaching the age to benefit from it.

A separate document says upgrades are taking longer than planned because of procurement delays and the complexity of projects.

Funding pressures are coming in part from the requirement to maintain existing technologies longer than originally anticipated, the document says.

Often, officials didn’t look to upgrade these old systems so long as they continued to work, said Andre Leduc, vice-president of government relations and policy with the Information Technology Association of Canada. He said the majority of departmental IT budgets are used to keep old systems running, leaving little spending room to deploy new technology like cloud computing.

“It’s not that they’re hitting the panic button. There is no panic yet,” Leduc said.

“There is a lot of concern, both within the bureaucracy, within the political layer, and within industry about we need to get this ball rolling. We need to help government digitally transform.”

Leduc said it won’t be an easy fix because of the money required, and getting the government to move ahead with major IT work after getting burned on high-profile projects. The most glaring example is the Phoenix pay system that has left public servants overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all.

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