On Bill 246, the Safer School Buses Act

Published on May 06, 2021

On 6 May 2021, MPP Anand spoke about the "Safer School Buses Act."

I’m so blessed to rise for the second time today, and this time to support my colleague, a wonderful colleague, a family man, a proud father and a five-star heckler —the member from Kitchener–Conestoga, in regard to the Safer School Buses Act. As a father of two children, I truly want to thank you. Thank you for proposing ways to make our children and our communities safer.

As we heard the member say in his remarks, our school buses are the safest mode of transport for our children, but we should always work to make it even more safe, so thank you.

Through Bill 246, we are introducing a dual red-amber system, which has been used by all jurisdictions in North America, with the exception of Ontario. Wisconsin was the last state to adopt this system, way back in 2016, and I’m happy to say that we are joining in and saving lives thanks to you, member. I really appreciate it.

On a personal level, Madam Speaker, when I got elected as the member for Mississauga–Malton, I made a commitment to my constituents that I would always look out for their safety and security. I always appreciate every effort made in this House for the safety and the security of our residents, and that is exactly what Bill 246 is doing.

As you know, with a population reaching close to 800,000—and if you have been to Mississauga, you would know it; if you haven’t been to Mississauga, please come to Mississauga, and you’ll know it—Mississauga is a very busy city. There are many, many busy roads and there are many, many busy drivers. So when I was drafting the speech for this bill, I thought of the high school nearest to my house, where my daughter, Suvidhi Anand, goes, which is sandwiched in between a busy road and a very busy highway. I thought, “This is the right step to protect and save our children.” So again, I’m proud to support this bill.

Before I even begin, Madam Speaker, I want to briefly address what a private member’s bill is, because a lot of my constituents ask me, “What is a PMB?” PMBs are bills brought by private members, members like us—in other words, non-cabinet members, and they allow us to address the very important issues that impact our community and our province.

The first stage is ideation, where MPPs look at areas where we could bring change through policy. Then, a bill is drafted, and then we go to caucus and we discuss with each other. Subsequently, we bring it to first reading. If passed, it goes to second reading, where we all debate. Once it goes to second reading, it goes to the committee stage. Once we have the opportunity at the committee stage, then it goes to be reported to the House. In the final stage, we come here again, discuss lessons learned from the committee and lessons learned from the community, and bring those changes into the bill, and we have a third reading. I’m sure, with the intentions you brought forward, that this bill is going to go through. With that, it’s going to come to royal assent, when the bill becomes an act.

These bills bring matters that concern private members and our constituents to the attention of the House, the ministries, the media and the public. They have an impact on government policy or indicate policy directions a future government might take.

I want to give you an example: One pressing issue which we talked about as we talked about Bill 246, which is going to save lives, is the problem of gas-and-dash, which I’m personally advocating about through Bill 231. With that bill, it will prevent the problem by introducing mandatory pre-payment across the province for gas and save lives of Ontarians at the pump. That bill, just like this one we’re discussing in front of us today, Bill 246, has very simple goals: the goal of community safety, the goal of making sure our children are safe. We are introducing these PMBs to protect our children, our neighbours’ children, and not only them, but those drivers and the people who, by mistake sometimes, get into those issues, so that they don’t have to have guilt forever.

Let me reiterate for all members what this bill is about: It amends section 175 of the Highway Traffic Act to state that buses manufactured on or after January 1, 2005, will be equipped with four overhead amber signal lights and four overhead red signal lights—correct?

For these same buses, the old, confusing message will be replaced with one clear, precise, straightforward message: Do not pass when the red lights are flashing. In other words, take care of our children. They’re precious. Let’s save them.

The Ministry of Transportation has also promised a soft implementation period to allow for the operators to make the necessary retrofits.

Now, let’s look at the data showcasing the current as well as the concrete benefits of adopting the amber-red warning system. The data is very clear. As the president of the Ontario Association of School Business Officials, OASBO, said, the current four-lamp system is “confusing for motorists, resulting in unnecessary safety risks.” For one, my colleagues have already mentioned that there are 30,000 drivers who pass by school buses every day across the province. There are 18,000 school buses on the road, and keep in mind that there are 833,000 students in Ontario who rely on these buses to get them to and from school every day.

It is estimated that by switching to the amber-red warning system, 3,300 of these vehicles would be slower when approaching a school bus. Based on Transport Canada’s data, this bill could also prevent 450 drivers from illegally passing, including some of those who do it by mistake. In 2000, Transport Canada found that amber warning lights resulted in an 11% reduction in speed compared to all-red lights, as well as fewer stopping violations. In other words, it’s a win-win situation for all of us.

Let me also say that this is a very easy and simple change—a change that cannot and should not wait. A simple swap of the inner red cap for an amber one probably costs $100 or $200. It’s a very, very small price to pay for the safety of our children.

As my colleague said not too long ago, let’s get these changes done for our safety. Let’s get them done because the bus drivers and Transport Canada have been asking for them. Let’s get them done for common sense. Let’s get them done for our children, our neighbours’ children, our Ontarians. Changing four lenses can impact tens of thousands of lives, and I’m looking forward to everybody joining hands and getting this bill passed.