Highways - Secondary Roads

Vicki Conrad, MLA Queens speaking on Motor Vehicle Act changes
Thursday, November 6, 2008, Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable member for Queens.

MS. VICKI CONRAD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and to the minister for giving me the opportunity to speak to this bill to amend the Motor Vehicle Act. Safety on our roads for all Nova Scotians and visitors to our province is so important and legislation requiring all vehicles on Nova Scotia roads to use daytime running lights is one we can certainly support.

As the minister pointed our, 99 deaths this past year on our Nova Scotia highways is something we want to try to correct in any way possible. When we think of those 99 accidents, we also know that there are 99 grieving families across this province who have either lost a loved one in that tragic accident, or they are caring for a loved one who is still recovering from the injuries sustained in a highway traffic accident, so a measure such as this will certainly help prevent injury or fatalities on our roads and is one that makes sense.

I would ask the minister, though, to ensure that proper notice and information about the changes be given to all Nova Scotian motorists so that they're not caught off guard when the piece of legislation comes into effect. Perhaps signage as well at our border crossings, so visitors to our province know that these safety measures are also in place would be important so that they too are not caught unaware because sometimes, you know, our good personnel within the RCMP and police forces don't necessarily know which cars are visitors and so if visitors aren't aware that the law exists, we may have some surprised visitors looking at some signs.

I think, eventually, we will see this piece of legislation become redundant as those older vehicles are removed off our highways and are replaced with newer vehicles that currently are mandated to have daytime running lights already installed at time of manufacture. So it is a good piece of legislation right now because we still know that there are many vehicles on our highways that predate that mandate.
I would like to also say that the second part of the amendment to the Motor Vehicles Act is something that we can support as well, and that giving designated vehicles the right to cross highway medians on divided highways. I think this is important because I know with the new divided highways, I sometimes will see a designated vehicle sitting at a certain spot that looks like a crossing point, but I'm really not sure if it is or if it isn't a crossing point.

So I would like to also suggest to the minister that perhaps some form of signage could be placed at these crossing points to at least give a caution to motorists who may be coming up behind a designated vehicle that's needing to cross over that median onto another part of our divided highway so that they're not caught off-guard, or needing to brake, and that sort of thing.

I guess the one concern I would have is how would there be assurance that all motor vehicles, or motorists, wouldn't be using these designated spots as crossing points, because we wouldn't want to see all traffic kind of looking and saying, oh, well, there's nobody behind me right now and this is a place where I can cross over, so, perhaps some thinking around what that signage would look like, a caution signage maybe, and a clearly marked line on that sign saying for use of designated vehicles only so that the rest of the motoring public wouldn't be tempted to use those spots on a regular basis.

With that, I want to thank the minister for bringing this piece of legislation forward. Again, safety is so important on our highways and any measures such as this to reduce the fatalities and injuries is just so important. So you have our support, and I'll look forward to seeing this bill move forward to the Law Amendments Committee.

Secondary Roads - Brush Cutting raised by Vicki Conrad, MLA Queens
Thursday, November 13, 2008

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.


MS. VICKI CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. Recently I corresponded with the minister about the poor state of brush clearing on the sides of secondary roads in rural Nova Scotia, the main concern being safety. The overgrowth reduces visibility and also narrows the driving lanes. I will table a photo from the Italy Cross Road as an example of this encroachment. The minister replied, which I will table, that there was insufficient funding to the RIM program to meet the brush-cutting needs. My question is, when will sufficient funds be made available to meet this basic safety measure on our rural roads?

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for bringing this question forward. I know it's something that she's talked to me about quite often and I know it's a real important issue for all the MLAs and all the residents in rural Nova Scotia.

As I've said in the House before, this government has increased our RIM money each year - this year it was $20 million which would include RIM patching, spreader patching, ditching, brushing, as the member is talking about. I would certainly encourage the members - I have before, and I will all members in the House - now is the time of year to be working with the local LSs and area managers and I would hope that she would have met with those folks prior to them making their commitments in their priorities for each individual member's riding so those priorities that the member has can be addressed and looked at when they're doing the priority list.

I can tell you there's a lot of great work being done throughout Nova Scotia with regard to the RIM money. That's exactly where this type of work should be done, and I encourage the member to work with her local LS and area manager to have that done.

MS. CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, it is about priorities and it is about safety, which should be a top priority. Unfortunately, knowing there are insufficient funds, those priorities aren't being met. I recognize this and so do the local residents.

In fact, local residents have been taking it upon themselves to improve this dangerous situation. One resident of Aulenback Road in Lunenburg County grew tired of waiting for the department to do the job and spent 50 hours doing the work herself. Another resident of Midville Branch has been lobbying for years. I will table the two recent articles. My question is, when can local residents expect the minister to make road safety a priority?

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I do recall receiving the honourable member's letter and I can tell you I did ask the staff of my department to speak to the local staff down there and have them look at the issues she's bringing forward to see if it could be addressed. I guess what I would like to ask is, when the priority list was done for this year in the honourable member's riding, did she meet with the LS prior to that to identify that as a priority?

MS. CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, this is not an isolated problem and it's not isolated just to the riding of Queens, it's all over rural Nova Scotia, throughout many ridings along secondary roads, and the documents I tabled were in Lunenburg County. The minister knows that brush-cutting is so far behind in his own department that they will issue breaking-ground permits to residents to do the work themselves. My question is, why is this minister depending on residents to do this job for him?

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I think everyone in this House would agree and I think across this province, we have quadrupled the budget for transportation. (Applause) By the way, in the budget earlier this year that the honourable member's Party voted against, we have quadrupled the budget for transportation - whether it's paving, new construction, bridges, culverts or the RIM money the member is talking about.
I think people have to agree in this House, this government has been very serious about rural Nova Scotia, about roads and road safety. Whether it's legislation, enforcement or education, I do take that very seriously and I can tell the honourable member that it really depends on the local MLA to work with the local members of the department to ensure they understand what the priorities are and I'm sure the work will get done.

Secondary Road questions raised by Vicki Conrad, MLA Queens
Thursday, November 6, 2008, Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.


MS. VICKI CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. Despite the past 10 years of planning to get road work done in this province, this government is still failing to deal with our secondary roads because they still continue to deteriorate. These roads are the gateways to small town Nova Scotia. They are the roads that are used by residents to get to and from work, the roads that are used to get our children to and from our schools. Nova Scotians want to see a plan to deal with the roads they live on. My question for the minister is, after 10 years, why doesn't Nova Scotia have a plan to deal with secondary roads?

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for a very good question. She and I have had discussions about this in the past. I do want to say that I think everyone would have to agree, this government has brought in, I believe, one of the most aggressive repaving programs this province has seen in many, many years. (Applause) The Premier made a commitment that we would repave 2,000 kilometres of roads over four years. We've just completed the third year of that, we're on target and I'm pleased to say that we'll see next, the fourth year of that program will be complete, we will have completed 2,000 kilometres of roads in this province.

I can tell you when I travel throughout the province, I've run into many people who have been very appreciative of the fact this government has put so much in regard to repaving roads of Nova Scotia. Will we want to do more? Absolutely. I know the honourable member opposite is well aware of the increase in the oil earlier this year and how it's had an effect on, in particular, liquid asphalt. Earlier this year I think the price was around $465 a tonne and it almost doubled towards the end of the season. That has put additional pressure on this government and on this department. In spite of all that, this government has found the money to meet our commitment and we will do that.

MS. CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, I understand the government is anticipating 2,000 kilometres of road being paved in the province over this four year course. However, we're not seeing a lot of that type of paving being done in our rural communities. If there were a plan, there would be a focus on how the repairs are done. I'm going to table a picture of Italy Cross Road where one lane has a 300 foot crack running its length with a nice patch of asphalt in the middle. My question to the minister is, why was a band-aid solution used for what all intents and purposes is a broken back?

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I guess without having the advantage of personally having seen that road she's talking about, or even seen the picture at this point, that sounds to me like something we could address on our RIM program. This government, in this budget, has put $20 million into RIM patching, that would address issues such as the honourable member is bringing here today.

I would encourage honorable members, as I have all MLAs who have approached me, even on my own side of the House, that when the area managers, the local OSs are making plans for the following year with regard to that type of work, I would encourage the members to sit down with their local area managers and local OSs to plan out for the following season.

This government is putting money in to addressing those types of issues and I would encourage the member opposite to work with the local OS and the local manager to address that type of an issue.
MS. CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the area managers are really struggling with the limited funds under RIM programs and even thought I've met with them consistently, they're still not able to get the job that needs to be done, done on rural Nova Scotia roads.

I want to table another picture of Hirtle Road and as you will see from this picture, this rut has been here so long that grass has been well established here. My question to the minister is, when can the users of Hirtle Road expect a repair and, failing that, can I at least have the assurance of some mowing?

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. SCOTT: Certainly I'll ask my department to have a look at the specific road the honourable member is talking about but, again, I would encourage the members opposite, and on my own side as well, to continue to work with the area managers and OSs because they are in the planning stages now for next year. They have allocations of funds to address those type of issues and it's best to work through the local OSs and area managers.

Mr. Speaker, even though that side of the House turned down a resolution today thanking the workers throughout this province for the great work they do, I still believe they do, and I encourage the members on that side of the House to work with workers in Transportation - and I'm sorry, I'll clarify, not the Liberals, they supported it, so it was the Official Opposition that turned down that resolution supporting our workers. Well, the NDP turned it down but that's fine. I would still encourage them to work with the OSs. They're employees of the department. They do a good job and they have to work with them to get those jobs done.

Vicki Conrad, MLA Queens speaking on Motor Vehicle Act changes
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MS. VICKI CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in my spot to speak very briefly on Bill No. 191. This is a good bill, it is about safety and the last few days we have heard many questions come before the House and come before the Minister of Transportation, talking about safety issues. Certainly this bill speaks to some of the safety concerns on our highways.

Requiring all vehicles and all drivers in the Province of Nova Scotia to turn on their daytime running lights is just a common sense bill, and as I had said during second reading, certainly I would hope that - and I understand from the minister - part of the lead up to this bill becoming law will be awareness and education for drivers in Nova Scotia so that they have some time to get used to the new change. I mean obviously we all know that many of our newer vehicles already come equipped with automatic daytime running lights, but many of the older vehicles on the highway are certainly not equipped with those features. So awareness of this bill will be so important and also allowing visitors to the province to know that it is required by law here in Nova Scotia, for those drivers visiting the province, to also have their daytime running lights.

Another important feature of this bill, and I'm very pleased that the minister brought it forward, is giving access to certain vehicles such as emergency vehicles, Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal vehicles, and construction vehicles, to allow them to have access to cross and turn around on those medians on our series highways. That's very important. Sometimes there are unforeseen circumstances that certain vehicles in certain positions need to use those turnaround places, so that's a very important feature of the bill.

Again, I want to thank the minister for bringing this forward, I'm pleased that it has been approved by the House. Safety is very important on our highways and if we can reduce one death on our highways due to this good piece of legislation, ensuring that all motorist in the travelling public are safe, it's very important. I thank you for giving me the time to speak on it, and again I thank the minister for bringing this forward.

Vicki Conrad, MLA Queens speaking on an amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act
Tuesday, November 25, 2008, Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MS. VICKI CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to stand here today and speak to this very, very important piece of legislation. Here in the Province of Nova Scotia over the past 20, 30, 40 years we have come progressively far in ensuring the safety of Nova Scotians, the travelling public, to ensure that they are safe on our highways and safe from drivers who get behind the wheel when they're impaired. I think many of us can think back to a day 20, 30, 40 years ago when it was a common practice for many people, and not just teenagers, but many adults - I think we all know of someone who has gotten behind the wheel after they have had one, two, three or four drinks too many. I think we all know of many people who have given silent permission to those people to get behind the wheel of a car while they have been impaired, because it was a practice many of us, 20, 30, 40 years ago, certainly didn't recognize as a very dangerous, dangerous practice.

Many years ago it took mums such as Margaret Miller and such as Susan MacAskill, to form a group called MADD - Mothers Against Drunk Driving - to really raise the awareness here in this province, and across the country, to the serious dangers of people getting behind the wheel impaired. Unfortunately for those mothers, they have had the unfortunate circumstance of losing a loved one to someone who has gotten behind the wheel while they've been impaired.
I think most of us know someone, such as Margaret Miller or Susan MacAskill, who has lost a loved one because of a drunk driver; most of us probably know someone in our community who has been injured or who has been killed because of a drunk driver; and most of us can at least somewhere relate to the grieving that has taken place in their lives and many lives and many families across this province, and certainly if we think of the numbers of injuries and deaths related to drunk drivers across this country.

Just recently I attended a launch for the Red Ribbon campaign on the South Shore. I was fortunate enough to meet a young group of teenagers who have been involved for some time with TADD - Teenagers Against Drunk Driving - and I was really impressed with those young people who really, truly do get it, and not only do they get it but they're also raising awareness amongst their peers about the dangers of drinking and driving.

I think we really need to, and certainly we do, support those young teenagers, and to get the message out there by moving forward with pieces of legislation such as this, that really drives the message home that there will be no tolerance, no tolerance at all, for those people who choose to get behind the wheel with a blood alcohol content of .05 or above. I was really impressed with these young people.

The other reason I was really impressed with these young people is I recall when I was a teenager in high school, I know of at least three people I attended high school with who lost their lives because they were either impaired or they were under the influence of other substances. When you're a teenager and you're in high school - and they are some of the most important years of your young adult life - and when you know of someone whom you've gone to school with and they lose their life because of an error in judgment, it really brings a high school population almost to their knees in recognition of the fact that they are not infallible.

It's almost scary when young people all of a sudden are mourning the loss of a young person whom they have known for many years, and then the recognition dawns on them that it is because of a choice they made unwisely. So this is a very important piece of legislation, it truly is, and not only does it get the message out there to our youth, but it also sends a very strong signal to adults out there who continue to drive while under the influence.

Just looking at the fact that over the last year 186 drivers were pulled over and given a 24-hour suspension. At least 780 drivers across this province were stopped and caught for impaired driving and given substantial fines beyond the 24-hour suspension. It makes you wonder how many drivers out there didn't get caught and were still on the roads behind a wheel and drunk. The numbers would probably be staggering if we really thought about it.

This is a very important piece of legislation because not only will it drive the message home that drinking while impaired is not tolerated here on the roads of Nova Scotia, the penalties will be stiff. Having one's licence suspended for more than 24 hours, having one's licence suspended for seven days for a first offence with a blood alcohol content of .05 would be a wake-up call, I think, for the most responsibly minded person who perhaps had made an error in judgment for one time.

We are very pleased to support this bill, this amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act. We're very pleased the minister has brought this forward. However, we can honestly say - I agree with my colleague who spoke before me - that unfortunately the timing of this bill will not see it in place before this holiday season that is upon us now. Many people, as we all know, during the holiday season tend to go out and socialize a little bit more during this time of the year than other times of the year. So, unfortunately this bill will not address some of those people who will socialize and make an error in judgment and get behind the wheel while drinking. That's an unfortunate part of the timing of this bill.

We certainly do support this bill. It's a good bill, it's a bill that's a priority bill and should have been brought forward at the first of the session. We still believe it is a priority bill and we do look forward to seeing it move through Law Amendments Committee when that time comes. If we can ensure one more safe life on the highways of Nova Scotia, then that's a good thing. If we can raise the awareness of the responsibilities we have as licenced drivers in this province, whether we're young, a new driver, or whether we've been on the road ourselves for well over 30 years holding a driver's licence, that message alone is an important one.

I want to thank you for bringing it forward. I also want to thank the members of MADD across this province who, especially this time of year and the anniversaries of the deaths of their loved ones, is probably a very particularly hard challenge for them. But I'm sure they are most reassured that the Province of Nova Scotia continues to move forward in a progressive manner in enabling bills like this to come forward. I'll take my seat and I thank you very much.

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