Sunday, January 17, 2010

Province's Spin Doctors in Overdrive Trying to Convince NB They're Actually Doing Something

Minister of Education Roland Hache and his Director of Communciations, Valerie Kilfoil, January 15, 2010So the provincial spin doctors have the communications machine in super spin cycle trying to convince the public and the media that New Brunswick is actually going to do something about testing the tires on the Department of Education's fleet of 21 passsenger MFAVs. (That's Minister Roland Hache and his Communications Director Valerie Kilfoil behind him at the announcement on Friday. Photo: Telegraph Journal, January 16, 2010, page 3.)

Don't be fooled. These people are experts at trying to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.

The only thing that happened on Friday is that the province of New Brunswick announced that Transport Canada has said it's "considering" testing. That's great, but it's a far cry from an actual test.

Here's what Transport Canada actually said:

The Government of New Brunswick (Department of Transport) has contacted Transport Canada, and we are currently determining how to assess the most appropriate combination of tires for multi-functional activity vehicles during the cold season.

Transport Canada is currently examining the option of physical testing of the Multi-Functional Activity Vehicles (MFAV's) and is pleased that the Government of New Brunswick has agreed to participate. Transport Canada will make all information available to the public once it becomes available.

While we have every confidence in Transport Canada, we want to know when the testing is going to take place and if the results will be available for this season. Winter tires are supposed to be on all school vehicles until April 30. The province is still using those 21 passenger MFAVs to transport children to extra curricular events in spite of Friday's announcement about Transport Canada. After everything that happened to our children, how can the Minister of Education allow innocent school children to be transported in these vehicles when there is so much doubt about the safety of its tire fitments?

Like A Seinfield Show: An Announcement About Nothing

The announcement on Friday reminds us of a Seinfield show: it's an announcement about nothing. The province of New Brunswick isn't going to do anything except loan one of its 21 passenger MFAVs to Transport Canada if it ever gets to that point. We've been asking for a vehicle for over a month now for the tests we have arranged at Continental Tire in Michigan. On Friday, the Minister of Transportation said NO.

"I will not be granting your request for the use of one of our MFABs for testing." Click here to read letter from the Minister, January 15, 2010.

Meantime, we noticed that the Minister has started to call these 21 passenger MFAVs "buses", in direct contradiction to his own School Transportation Regulations which state that only yellow school buses can be called "buses".

School Bus as defined in the Pupil Transportation Regulation means a school vehicle that is a bus, is painted national school bus yellow and is equipped with a warning system.

And in Policy 512, it goes so far to say in Section 6.7:

"So as not to be confused with school buses, student extra-curricular activity vehicles cannot be painted predominantly yellow. Yellow may be used for logos and trim but shall not exceed 10% of the painted surface."

One might say we're just being sticklers for detail, but it's details like that which are part of the "process" the Department of Education's Communications Director Valerie Kilfoil kept citing as the reason why the Department of Education and Transportation couldn't tell us whether the province would loan us a vehicle or not.