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Thank you Mr. Speaker. I rise in the house today to talk about an issue that touches the lives of all Ontarians: the safety of our children.
I’d like to acknowledge our colleague Ernie Parsons, whose efforts to ensure our kids’ safety have been instrumental in getting us where we are today.
And I’m especially honoured to acknowledge the efforts of the Jelley family who are here today [indicate: Eve Jelley, Mother, and Richard Robertson, Grandfather in attendance] who have worked tirelessly to protect the 800,000 students who regularly use school buses in Ontario every day.
Mr. Speaker, protecting the safety of children — when they are traveling on a school bus, and in other aspects of their lives — is something we as a government take very seriously.
That is why I am so pleased to announce that we are investing $2 million to keep children safe by helping to pay for the retrofitting of any school buses built before January 2005 that are not already equipped with a crossing arm. The funding will also be made available to school bus operators who added a crossing arm at their own expense.
Mr. Speaker, by January of next year, every school bus in Ontario will have a crossing arm. No exceptions.
This requirement is the culmination of our government’s strong commitment to improving school bus safety in Ontario.
Since taking office, our government has made sure that the owner of any vehicle that illegally passes a school bus faces charges —regardless of who is driving at the time.
We’ve increased the fines for speeding and added three demerit points for those who endanger pedestrians at crossings.
And, Mr. Speaker, our government required every new school bus built after January 1, 2005 be equipped with more safety features.
But Mr. Speaker, despite the actions we have taken to improve Ontario’s excellent school bus safety record, we realized more needed to be done.
Without these changes, it could take up to 10 years to equip all school buses with this safety feature, and we can’t wait any longer.
That’s why we’re helping to pay for this retrofit, and that’s why we’re making crossing arms a requirement next January.
Mr. Speaker, this will make the school bus, already the safest vehicle on the road, even safer.
We’re doing this to safeguard our most important asset — Ontario’s children.
I’m sure every member of this house will be proud of that.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.