Wednesday, December 30, 2009

John Mahler, Veteran Automotive Journalist Comments on NB Dept. of Transportation Refusal to Test Tires

John MahlerI find the refusal of the New Brunswick Minister of Transportation, Denis Landry, to allow safety testing of the 21 seat MFAV mini buses a sad comment on his government's bureaucracy. I can well understand a government's reluctance to spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars required for testing of this kind, but when the testing is offered free of charge to the people of New Brunswick, whose children ride these buses, it seems that this is just bureaucratic institutional stubbornness.

The Government of New Brunswick has announced that they will not be doing their own testing of winter tires on MFAV mini buses as requested by the mothers of the children who lost their lives in a tragic crash. When did government bureaucracy in New Brunswick change from working for and with the citizens to protecting its own interests?

The Minister had before him a win-win situation and he turned it into a loss.

The win-win situation was a proposal to the New Brunswick government through Denis Landry, that he make available a MFAV minibus for free winter tire testing - just the bus. Request denied. So now, incredibly really, The Continental Tire company has come forward to offer both engineers and the use of their winter tire testing facility in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan completely free of charge to the people of New Brunswick. Continental Tire has nothing to gain from this generous offer. They are already a time-honoured, respected tire company and one of my regular contacts who stepped up to offer their testing services when they heard of the mini bus tire concerns that the New Brunswick mothers contacted me about.

If the testing proves the Minster's government departments have made the correct tire choices, the bereaved mothers causing this concern will end their campaign, and the kids who ride these MFAV's will be safe. Their parents will be grateful to know their government has their concerns at heart after all.

If the test proves the all-winter tire fitment is safer, the Minister can go ahead and order the implementation of this new policy. Children will be safe, their parents grateful, and he can demonstrate to the people of New Brunswick that political pride does not stand in the way of finding the truth.

What is difficult to accept about this free offer of expert assistance? It is a win-win for every stakeholder in this issue. And I doubt this issue will go away until proper testing is arranged. The longer this takes, the greater the impact when the results are released, whatever they are.

These bereaved families are now on their own, looking for a bus to rent to do the winter testing. Why should these saddened families take on this financial burden when it will cost the Government of New Brunswick nothing to provide a bus for testing?

As we approach the anniversary of the tragic collision which claimed these young lives, I would say to the Minister, Man-up and be a willing participant in investigating school bus safety for your province. Step up and be a solution, what is stopping you?