Bathurst Mothers Still Plan Own Tests: Say "Inexecusable" They Had to Be Informed by Media of Department of Education's Announcement, Michelin Tire Clarifies Position
(Bathurst, NB - January 15, 2010) - Three Bathurst mothers who fought for scientific testing of the tires used on the New Brunswick Department of Education's fleet of Multi Function Activity Vehicles (MFAVs) are claiming victory today after hearing the province of New Brunswick has agreed to consider testing the vehicle's tires at Transport Canada's testing facilities in Blainville, Quebec.
But they say victory is tempered with a sense of caution because there is no firm date for the testing, there is no guarantee that results will be available for this driving season and, most importantly, the 21 passenger MFAVs owned by the province of New Brunswick are still on the road ferrying children to extra curricular sporting events with tire fitments that are "questionable" for safety.
"Besides the admission that we were right when we said there had to be tests conducted on these tires, there is not a lot in this announcement for us to take joy in," says Marcella Kelly, who lost her son Nikki in the fatal collision that took the lives of six other basketball players from Bathurst High School and the coach's wife.
"To us it looks a vague attempt to diffuse criticism on the government because public pressure is mounting against their position".
She says the press release only says the Department is "considering" tests at Transport Canada's facilities.
"Considering is not good enough," says Kelly, who adds that she believes the Department of Education finally received Transport Canada's recommendations about the use of winter tires this week and the report was not in the province's favour.
Kelly asks how the Department of Education can rationalize the continued use of the 21 passenger MFAVs in its fleet when its announcement proves there is a seed of doubt about the vehicle's tire safety.
"After everything that happened to our children, the Department of Education hasn't even mentioned the fact that it continues to use these vehicle when they now have their own doubts about the safety of its tire fitments," she said.
The mothers reiterated their resolve to go ahead with arranging an independent test at Continental Tires state of the art testing facility in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
"Without a firm date for testing and no commitment from the province that the test results will actually be implemented this year, we feel we have no choice but to drive the agenda forward faster than the Minister of Education or Transportation are capable of doing," says Isabelle Hains, whose son Daniel was also killed in the collision.
Hains says it is "inexecusable' that they were informed of the announcement by a reporter early Friday afternoon instead of by the Minister of Education himself or Valerie Kilfoil, the Director of Communications of the Department of Education with whom they have been in contact with almost daily over the past month and a half.
"The fact that we had to learn of this important announcement through the media does not speak well of the government's empathy, sympathy and sincerity in dealing with victims of tragedy," says Hains whose son Daniel would have turned 20 years old today.
"Nobody from the Department of Education contacted us to tell us in person. To hear this through the media is inexecusable and just another example of what we have had to deal with in this government," she said.
They also question the government's insistence that it has three experts who agree that mixed tires are best on this type of vehicle. In a statement released today to veteran automotive journalist John Mahler, Transport Canada and the Rubber Tire Association of Canada, Michelin clarified its position on winter tire use as related to the MFAV questions the mothers raised.
The safety conscious tire company reiterated the message of winter tires on all axles including dual rear wheel vehicles. On "vehicles with 6 tire positions, Michelin recommends to use winter tires in all positions to provide the optimum balance of performance and overall vehicle stability."
"So New Brunswick's Ministry of Education is down to only two sources who endorse their tire choices, a local consultant, David Hoar and a letter written by a retired Goodyear engineer compared to 14 experts who oppose their choice," says journalist John Mahler of the Toronto Star's Wheels.ca.
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