Volume 94, Issue 68

Wednesday, January 24, 2001


Duke prof first to offer course over Internet

Student questions Housing decision

Ivey ranked best for value

Friends mourn slain prof

Tories want to privatize drivers' license testing


Planet Me

Tories want to privatize drivers' license testing

By Chris Lackner and Sarah Fraley
Gazette Staff

A Tory initiative to bring about the privatization of driver testing has been greeted with mixed reaction and serious concerns as to the safety of Ontario's roads.

The Ontario government's Bill 137 would see driver testing in Ontario privatized under the Road User Customer Service Improvement Act. The bill passed its first reading this past Nov. 2.

Bill Parish, press secretary for Transportation Minister David Turnbull, said the Ontario government will decide on an external provider following the cut-off date of Feb. 2. He said potential providers were asked to submit their qualifications and explain why they would like to provide the service. "One entity will be providing all driving training services," he said.

Parish said the government would oversee regular inspections to ensure that testing standards are still being met.

The current 900 employees represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union have little reason to fear for their job security, he said. "We believe the current employees are well trained and will be an asset to the new provider."

Parish said the government's main objective in privatizing driver testing is to improve customer service. "Waiting periods for test times will have gone down," he said.

Leah Casselman, president of the OPSEU, said the bill could lead to the privatization of every aspect of road safety, including highway inspection, enforcement and driver testing, which could compromise quality.

"Profit-motivated operations aren't going to forego profit in the interest of public safety," Casselman warned. "I want to know everyone behind the steering wheels all around me knows what the heck they are doing."

Casselman said privatization comes with the threat of bribery, as well as the abuse of personal information found on driver's licenses, and the creation of false identification.

"Take a close look at driver testing and the conclusion is obvious," she said. "This belongs in the public domain."

Katie Fitzrandolph, communications officer at OPSEU, said it was hard to say where provincial driving testers would be left if Ontario were to go to a privatized system.

"Under the collective agreement, the testers would have to be offered a position at 85 per cent of their present wage or a buy-out package based on their seniority," she said. "However, they have to choose if they want the deal beforehand."

Bert Killian, president and general manager for the Ontario Safety League, said privatization will get people on the road at a faster pace. "This is good news as long as the Ministry maintains overall control over standards and policies. This government is not that great at delivery, but it is better at policy and legislation."

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