moved that Bill C-603, An Act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (vehicle side guards), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to introduce my first bill since I was elected, that is, since the beginning of my short career so far as an MP. My bill, Bill C-603, is being seconded by my colleague from Parkdale—High Park. This bill is very important to me, because unfortunately, too many pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists have been killed in collisions with heavy trucks.
This past summer was no different. One such death that really shocked and upset the people of Montreal was that of Mathilde Blais, which reminded us that these deaths can be prevented. The Quebec coroner's report clearly stated that her death was preventable. It is shocking. I also heard what her family had to say. It is extremely upsetting when you know that measures exist specifically to save lives.
This bill would make side guards mandatory on heavy trucks. These side guards prevent cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists from being pulled under the wheels of the vehicle. A number of studies have already proven how effective side guards are. For example, there was a study conducted in the United Kingdom in 2005.
A study from the United Kingdom found that side guards reduced the number of deaths by 61% in accidents where cyclists hit the side of a truck. More generally, when cyclists are involved in an accident with heavy trucks, side guards help to reduce rates of death and injury by 5.7% and 13.2%.
We can save lives. Studies have proven this. I keep mentioning studies because the government said that it would not introduce the bill. However, people have died, and there have been reports, including the Ontario coroner's report from 2012, which reiterates a recommendation made in 1998 for the introduction of mandatory side guards on heavy trucks to save lives and ensure better public safety.
It is difficult for me to understand why the government did not take action.
I will try to stay calm and avoid attacking the government. In this case, what we can do here as members of Parliament and members of this House is to force the government to take action on an issue that is important to us. That is why this is a private member's bill. It is important for the people watching us today to understand that every member here can choose how to vote on a bill that will save lives.
As I said, there are other studies. I have already mentioned the Ontario coroner's review. Following the death of Mathilde Blais this summer, Quebec's coroner took another look at the situation and produced a report. The young cyclist was run over by a heavy truck. The report contains the striking assertion that the death was avoidable.
I asked the government questions about these measures and why it was not taking action. Recently, the government said that the provinces could bring their own legislation on this, that they could take action. True, they can, but the federal government has jurisdiction too. We are talking about a federal law. The Motor Vehicle Safety Act, a federal law, is an act to regulate the manufacture and importation of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment to reduce the risk of death, injury and damage to property and the environment.
The point I want to make here today is that we can take action at the federal level.
For those who are still wondering why we should take action, let us look at what is happening elsewhere. I invite my colleagues to look at what happened in the European Union. In 1989, almost 25 years ago, the European Union made side guards mandatory. It did its homework and studied the issue. European Union countries know that side guards save lives. That is why European politicians made them mandatory.
We can also look at the United Kingdom. I mentioned the study showing that once side guards became mandatory, there were fewer deaths and serious accidents. Japan is another place where these measures are mandatory.
We do not have to look that far. We can look at what is happening here in Canada. The government says that the provinces can take action. Well, they have. Newfoundland and Labrador has equipped its own vehicles with side guards. In Quebec, more specifically following the deaths of a number of people in Montreal, the City of Westmount pushed to have side guards installed on all city-owned heavy trucks. This is also the case for the Saint-Laurent borough and Mayor DeSousa. They moved forward with this measure because they know for a fact that it is worthwhile. This can save lives. We can truly ensure that our loved ones are safe.
I can also talk about a very touching case.
I will read the story of Jessica Holman-Price.
On December 19, 2005, 21-year-old Jessica Holman-Price lost her life while preventing her 10-year-old brother from being crushed by the wheels of a snow removal truck in Montreal. The two were standing on a snowbank at a busy intersection waiting to cross the street. When the light turned green, the truck came around the corner and caught the edge of the mound, causing the boy to slip under the vehicle. Jessica reached for him but she too lost her footing and slid under the wheels of the truck. In a split second, she managed to push her brother out of harm's way before the massive truck fatally injured her.
I had the chance to meet with Jessica's mother, Ms. Jeannette Holman-Price. Since Jessica's loss she has been campaigning very hard. To be honest, I found her courage and her strength so powerful; it really moved me.
As members of Parliament we have to listen to the people who are close to the tragedy. They have have been calling for us to act for a long time.
This bill has been in the works for many years. I am very proud to be able to debate it today, but I would like my colleagues to understand what Jessica's mother is calling for.
I also would like to thank her. She has given me a lot of strength in terms of how determined she is and how important this is to her. She has shown a lot of courage in explaining, time and time again, the story of Jessica so that we here in Parliament would listen to her and understand that we can act and we can do something.
Again, that is one of the reasons I got into politics. It is because I know we can change things. Sometimes we wonder what we can do when we have a majority government. In this case, and I am calling on all my colleagues, we can ask the government to act. The government must be forced to act, because there is a practical solution.
Unfortunately, there have been a number of victims. This is not an attack on a group, and is not in any way an attack on truckers. We are simply saying that there are devices that can help people. It was difficult in the beginning, when people were talking about seat belts. Why pay more for seat belts and airbags? These are safety measures the government can adopt by changing the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. It can raise the standards in order to save lives.
Much has been said about what can be done to move things forward. Today, we have a very practical bill, and I invite all my colleagues to read it. This very straightforward bill, which is just a few pages in length, merely changes a definition in order to put measures in place that protect people’s lives.
The Quebec coroner and the Ontario coroner, who have seen the situation and have carried out studies, are constantly making recommendations on the subject. I therefore do not understand why the government does not act. I heard the government speak a few times about what is happening in the United States, saying it was going to wait and see what happened.
However, the U.S. equivalent of the Transportation Safety Board has also studied this and recommends that side guards be installed on trucks. It even says that this can protect not only pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, but vehicle passengers as well.
Moreover, this measure, which is designed to save lives and help people, costs the government nothing. Because we are at second reading, we may hear the cost argument. However, the people from the provincial trucking association, the Association du camionnage du Québec, told me that that argument does not hold water, because everyone agrees that a life has no price. We can save lives.
As for the cost argument, studies have shown that side guards reduce gasoline consumption costs for some trucks. Side guards are already being seen on trucks on the highways. Why? Because truck drivers are saving money and side guards are good for the environment. It costs between $500 and $3,000 to install side guards. According to some studies and manufacturers, the cost can be recovered in less than two years.
At first, it was said that the studies were inconclusive, but that is no longer so. When we debate this bill, I invite my colleagues—especially those who oppose it—to consider the fact that other countries, including those of the European Union, as well as the United Kingdom and Japan, have taken action on side guards; some municipalities have as well. Clearly, action is needed, and the time for action is now.
I repeat: we must have leadership and we must have action. Every year, when a death occurs, the issue of side guards arises. When there are accidents involving a heavy truck and cyclists or pedestrians, we hear the same arguments every year. We also hear the same question: what if there were side guards? We can take action today.
To reassure my colleagues opposite, given that we are amending the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, we are talking about trucks that would be imported into or manufactured in Canada. I agree that we must talk with the provincial governments if we want to change what is happening on roads at present.
Nevertheless, in what area can the government take action? What falls under its jurisdiction? As parliamentarians, where can we have an impact and where can we make changes? We can change what falls under federal jurisdiction. I am proposing to change the law. Bill C-603 is important to me and to the people I have met, to Jessica's mother and the mothers of many other people. Unfortunately, it is too late for Mathilde Blais and Jessica Holman-Price, but we can take action and still save lives. I invite all my colleagues to support this bill.