Northern businesses and municipalities left out in the cold

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snowplow

MPP Michael Mantha recently sent a letter to the Minister of Transportation, Caroline Mulroney, in regard to limited access for Northern Ontarians to MTO DiveTest Centres in winter months. Mr. Mantha is echoing concerns from Northern Ontario businesses and municipalities who require operators with special license qualifications to operate road maintenance vehicles, fire trucks, snow plows and other specialized equipment.

In most cases these special license qualifications often require periodic road testing for operators. The issue arises where MTO’s limited DriveTest services are not available in Northern Ontario from December to April, and most times operators must wait weeks or months before the service becomes available in our area.

“Northern business operators explain that when they need to hire a person with particular license qualifications, they often have to wait weeks or months on end for a DriveTest Centre to be open in a community near to them. The only alternative to a prolonged wait is pay the person’s travel time, accommodations and perhaps meals to go to a permanent location such as Sault Ste. Marie.”, states MPP Michael Mantha.

The following is a copy of MPP Mantha’s letter to Minister Mulroney, as well as Minister Mulroney’s response to the concerns he is raising.

 

” Dear Minister Mulroney:

Thank you for your letter about driver testing in Northern Ontario. Your letter of September 20, 2019 was in response to my March 12, 2018.

In your response, you stated that, “the demand for road tests in northern communities has not exceeded capacity; however the ministry will continue to monitor transaction volumes and will make changes to hours of operation…” Unfortunately, the ministry’s commitment does not in any way address the concerns of Northern Ontario business operators or the concerns of municipal leaders.

The original complaint was that given Northern Ontario’s relatively low density population, finding drivers who possess specialized licenses is often difficult in comparison to other parts of the province. Yet in the North the demand for personnel with special license qualifications – such as operating road maintenance vehicles, fire protection and other specialized equipment – is higher in this region given our environmental, climatic and geographical realities.

Northern business operators explain that when they need to hire a person with particular license qualifications, they often have to wait weeks or months on end for a DriveTest Centre to be open in a community near to them. The only alternative to a prolonged wait is pay the person’s travel time, accommodations and perhaps meals to go to a permanent location such as Sault Ste. Marie. Businesses in other parts of Ontario would seldom, if ever, have to cover such expenses. For small business operators and municipalities, this poses unacceptable limitations on them. For private citizens, this can also be a financial stress that they can ill afford.

Your government claims that, “Ontario is open for business.” However, when one considers the disadvantage that the ministry is putting Northern business operators at, it seems that your government only means only designated parts of Ontario are open for business. Our Northern businesses and municipal offices are left out in the cold, receiving second-rate service. When a business or municipal office needs to have a new worker with specialized license qualifications to drive snowploughs, fire trucks, transport trucks or other specialized equipment, they need it then, not weeks or months down the road. Then again, maybe having a shortage of licensed snowplough operators would help to explain why my office is annually inundated with so many complaints about MTO’s response to cleaning up our winter road conditions. Slow or infrequent response by MTO contractors to treacherous winter road conditions leads to inconvenience and delays and unfortunately, in some cases, it results in a loss of life.

As well, in your response you indicated that the ministry and DriveTest have taken inclement winter weather conditions into consideration when establishing dates and hours of operation in the North. You wrote, “Due to the nature of winter conditions, DriveTest does not offer services in this geographical region from December to April.” This is not acceptable.

In response to this policy, to be absolutely blunt, such accommodations are an outrage and an insult to citizens and business operators across Northern Ontario. Northern Ontarians drive in such conditions day after day all winter long. Does the Ministry believe Northern Ontarians go into hibernation like bears or Wiarton Willie?! Or is it that DriveTest administrators, like so many Northerners, have learned from experience to doubt MTO’s ability to keep the roads clear and safe enough for testers to travel up here at all during the winter months?

Northern residents have businesses to operate, schools to travel to, medical appointments to keep, residential fires to put out – just the same as the rest of Ontario.

In conclusion, I ask you to seriously reconsider the DriveTest services that the Ministry provides to Northern Ontario and make access equitable to that of the rest of the province. We need to have year round, consistent access to this essential service.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration in this matter. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Michael Mantha
MPP/député Algoma-Manitoulin

MM :gb

CC: Northeast Superior Mayors Group Members,
Mayor Ron Rody, Wawa, ON
Mayor Angelo Bazzoni, Township of White River
Mayor Michael Levesque, Township of Chapleau
Mayor Alain Lacroix, Township of Dubreuilville
Mayor Morley Foster, Mayor of Hornepayne
Mayor Andy Major, Township of Manitouwadge
Algoma Municipal Association”

 

Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation’s response:

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