Government Relations Report Issue 73

Winter 2009 CSANews Issue 73  |  Posted date : Dec 12, 2009.Back to list

As our members from Ontario may be aware, we are heading into the fourth month of a strike at all DriveTest locations throughout the province. This strike has halted many services including new-driver tests, road tests and driver's licence renewals. The strike began on August 21, and it was widely thought at that time that it would be settled relatively quickly. Clearly, this is not the case.

As the strike dragged on, the CSA became concerned about the potential impact this might have on the winter travel season. Many who were planning to renew their licences prior to departure might not be able to do so. We were also concerned about those members who held licences that were due to expire while they were enjoying their winter vacations. Some snowbirds who drive large RVs or certain trucks require a road test for licence renewal.  As the strike wore on, weeks turned into months and our concerns were no longer hypothetical, we had a real problem on our hands. The Ontario government did, in fact, introduce an open-ended regulation to the Highway Traffic Act that extended the expiry date for all drivers who were unable to renew their licences due to the strike. Essentially, what this meant was that if you were pulled over by the police in Ontario and you had one of these strike-related expired licences, the police were not going to charge you with driving with an expired licence. Sounds great, problem solved, right? Not for snowbirds.

Let us assume that the strike is settled and the licence extension regulation was to be repealed in relatively short order. While it might be a minor inconvenience if you are in Ontario, it could prove to be a major headache if you are away for the winter. It could potentially leave tens of thousands of Ontario travellers stranded in the United States or elsewhere without a valid driver's licence.

It also creates a problem if you are pulled over by a police officer who probably is not aware or doesn't much care that this strike is taking place in Canada. All the officer is going to see is that you are driving with an expired licence and there is nothing good for the driver down that road. So what did we do?

The CSA contacted both Ontario transportation minister, the Hon. Jim Bradley and Leeds-Grenville MPP (and former solicitor general) Bob Runciman and shared our concerns with them. We asked Minister Bradley to extend the regulation to a date that would permit all affected Ontario travellers enough time to return to the province without having to choose between interrupting their vacations or driving with an expired licence. We also suggested that the Ontario government craft some form of official letter explaining the situation, which snowbirds could produce if they were stopped by a police officer while driving outside of Ontario.

I am pleased to report that because of our involvement, Minister Bradley has done just that. He has extended the deadline to July 1, 2010, a date that should provide everybody with more than enough time to get home and settled with their current licence. The ministry has also contacted jurisdictional authorities across Canada and the United States advising them of the situation.

Finally, the ministry has updated its website to address many of the specific concerns of Ontario drivers travelling to the United States or elsewhere. An official letter (which you may produce, if stopped by a police officer) from the ministry regarding the extension of licence validity may be downloaded at the link below.

On behalf of the Canadian Snowbird Association, I would like to thank Ontario's transportation minister, the Hon. Jim Bradley for listening and acting on our concerns. I would also like to thank Leeds-Grenville MPP Bob Runciman for lending support to our position. It is gratifying when we can work with government and effect positive change that benefits our members.

There was an interesting article about Texas in a recent edition of the Los Angeles Times. With some of the country's lowest prices for housing, gas and food, no state income tax and one of the most resilient economies in the nation, it made the case that Texas was emerging as the "new Florida." Other reasons mentioned in the article? More equitable property taxes and aggressive marketing campaigns on the part of state officials and real estate developers. I wonder if anyone in Tallahassee is listening?

My wife Lois and I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and we look forward to seeing you at Snowbird Extravaganza in Lakeland in January!

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