Mr. Speaker, at the outset I would like to be very clear that protecting children on the road is vitally important to our government. Of course, we are going to, and must, do everything we can to make the streets safer for them.
School buses are built, inside and out, to protect children, including having a series of structural safety features built in that are specifically designed to protect children in the event of a collision. School buses are mandated to have high roof crush standards, reinforced joints, electronic stability control to help prevent rollovers, and a highly effective seat design, referred to as “compartmentalization”.
Make no mistake: the exceptional level of safety currently afforded by school buses is owing to extensive research conducted over decades in both Canada and the U.S. It is because of this research that our government is a strong supporter of seat belts.
The Minister of Transport has taken action in this area and, in July 2018 we published regulations that include specific technical requirements that must be followed should seat belts be installed on school buses. This technical standard is directly aligned with requirements in the United States and will help ensure that when properly used and installed, seat belts can provide an additional layer of safety to complement the existing highly effective seat designs.
Building on this commitment to road safety, in June 2017 we published regulations to require electronic stability control systems on all new large school buses and other heavy vehicles. Our leadership in this area makes our large school buses the only ones in North America that are now federally mandated to have electronic stability control systems, which reduce the risk of rollover and obviously help to protect school children.
We are always looking for ways to improve road safety, and in October 2018 the minister tasked his department to take a fresh look at the issue of seatbelts on school buses. This review is now well under way.
We are not conducting this review alone. On January 21, 2019, the Minister of Transport met with the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety to discuss this important issue. The ministers agreed to establish a task force on school bus safety, bringing together government representatives, safety associations, manufacturers, and school board representatives to assess potential safety measures, including school bus standards and operations, both inside and outside the bus. We also agreed to conduct pilot projects, which will help school bus operators across Canada to make sure that seatbelts, when installed on their buses, are always worn properly by occupants.
These pilot projects, and our review of school bus safety, are critical steps to ensure that Canada's school buses continue to be the safest way to transport children to and from school. We will not hesitate to take the necessary actions to protect Canadians, especially young Canadians.