North Perth councillor proposes changes to school bus safety measures, monetary penalties

NORTH PERTH – A Notice of Motion was presented to North Perth council at its March 6 meeting. Coun. Allan Rothwell read the proposed motion which was to be considered at the next council meeting.

The motion begins by explaining that almost 824,000 students travel in about 16,000 school vehicles every school day in Ontario. However, according to the Ministry of Transportation’s statistics, the rate of vehicles passing stopped school buses is over 30,000 times per day. It then explains the province’s passing of the Safer School Zones Act of 2017, “which authorized the use of Automated School Bus Stop Arm Camera Systems to detect incidents where vehicles failed to stop when the school bus was stopped and the stop arm extended.”

The Association of Municipalities (AMO) working on behalf of all Ontario municipalities made its submission to the Standing Committee on General Government in May 2019 in support of Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMPs). These are to be used to collect fine revenue for school bus stop arm infractions and other applications, which include Automated Speed Enforcement (ASE) technologies that are deployed in school and community safety zones.

Rothwell then went on to explain in the motion that police resources can not be spread any thinner to enforce Highway Traffic Act offenses throughout municipalities.

“The administrative and financial costs to establish the required municipal administrative penalty program under the Highway Traffic Act, and its regulations, are substantial and maybe out of reach for small or rural municipalities that have insufficient amounts of traffic to generate the required funds to offset the annual operational costs of a municipal administrative penalty program,” read the motion. The resolution proposed is that the council of the Municipality of North Perth urge the provincial government to make two changes. These include requiring all school buses to have stop-arm cameras installed and paid for by the province for the start of the next school year. The second included underwriting the costs for the implementation and on-going costs for AMPs in rural municipalities. The motion is to be circulated to Premier Doug Ford, Attorney General Doug Downey, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, Provincial opposition parties, Perth-Wellington MPP Matthew Rae, AMO and to all municipalities in Ontario.

Coun. Rothwell then explained he will not be present for the next meeting, and will not be there in person to conduct the standard process to deal with a notice of motion. He then went on to explain that with the council’s permission, according to their procedural bylaw, they could consider the resolution that evening. So he asked council members to consider the resolution, as he wouldn’t be in attendance to speak to his own motion at the next meeting.

Mayor Todd Kasenberg then explained that council would waive the notice and consider the matter of the motion that was made by Coun. Rothwell.

“Alright, so what we need to do now is consider the motion to waive the notice, period, so that we can consider this and pick this up off the table tonight,” said Mayor Kasenberg.

He then got unanimous council consent to consider the motion.

Rothwell thanked the people who brought their comments forward, like Coun. Sarah Blazek and Mayor Kasenberg. He has had discussion with local school bus company owner, John Chapman, who brought the matter to the attention of county council in February 2022.

“This is something that is crucial, not just in our municipality but throughout Ontario. We need to ensure that we are doing everything necessary to ensure that members of the public that are perhaps unaware of the big, yellow school bus with flashing lights, with a stop arm out, ‘that means stop!’ For the safety of children, and others on the road as well. So on that basis, I’m requesting council’s support of this resolution,” explained Coun. Rothwell.

Mayor Kasenberg then expressed his thoughts, explaining that he thought “the resolution makes a whole lot of sense at this point in time and it’s kind of a fine opportunity for this council to make some noise about this issue.”

The vote on the motion’s resolution was unanimous, as council voted in favour.

Melissa Dunphy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner