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Almaguin councils oppose Vaughan resolution to raise driving age to 18
Aug. 13, 2021
Rocco Frangione

Almaguin Highlands municipal councils have been reacting over the last few weeks to a resolution from Vaughan council asking the provincial government to consider raising the driving age from 16 to 18.

However, Almaguin municipalities are opposed to raising the minimum driving age and are responding with their own resolutions, led by the Township of Machar, to maintain the status quo.

But it appears the municipalities are debating and reacting to a resolution that was never officially voted upon or passed by Vaughan council.

The Nugget has learned the resolution was placed on Vaughan’s June 1 committee of the whole meeting agenda with a recommendation that it be deferred to the September meeting for further debate.

The Vaughan resolution was drawn up following a fatal collision May 16 in the city where a four-year-old boy and his 10-year-old sister playing on their driveway died after being hit by an out of control vehicle.

A 16-year-old boy from Richmond Hill was charged with several offences including two counts each of criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death.

Almaguin municipal councils, led by the Township of Machar, have been reacting to Yeung Racco’s deferred resolution as if it had been passed by Vaughan council.

When the Township of Machar received the Vaughan resolution, it introduced and passed its own resolution at its July 28 regular meeting opposing the Ford government consider raising the minimum driving age to 18.

The Machar resolution states in many rural Ontario communities, driving is the “only means of transportation” and furthermore it’s how young people in rural communities get to their jobs.

The resolution also says “many young drivers are very responsible.”

Machar council emailed its counter resolution directly to the Premier and then circulated its resolution to other municipal councils in Parry Sound District asking for their support.

Powassan was one of the first communities to get the Machar resolution and in leading off the debate Powassan Coun. Debbie Piekarski said Machar “made an excellent argument as to the importance of young people being able to drive in Northern Ontario.”

Piekarski said she was definitely on board with supporting the Machar resolution.

Coun. Dave Britton agreed, as did Mayor Peter McIsaac.

McIsaac went further and pointed out Vaughan “has all kinds of municipal transit and even has a subway line now.”

He said this makes it easier for young people in Vaughan to get around but the same can’t be said for young people living in Northern Ontario.

“I agree, this is something I would absolutely support and that we oppose the City of Vaughan resolution,” McIsaac said.

Municipal staff will now prepare a formal resolution for council’s Aug. 17 meeting where it will officially support Machar’s request to leave the driving license age at 16.

South River also received the resolution from Vaughan and the opposing resolution from Machar but took no action on either and rather simply voted to receive both documents.

But both Ryerson and Strong town councils endorsed the Machar resolution at their respective Aug. 10 meetings, with Strong council saying it was thankful Machar was circulating an opposing resolution.

Meanwhile, Ryerson Coun. Celia Finley said in rural Ontario, driving a vehicle is sometimes the only means of getting around and she doesn’t want to see 16-year-olds deprived of driving at that age.

Finley wondered if Vaughan and other large centres are seeing increased instances of young drivers racing and if an alternative solution is to introduce stiffer penalties and fines for this age group rather than increase the driving age to 18.

“There has to be some way to tamp down on this crazy road racing,” Finley said.

“There’s got to be another way to handle that.”

Finley’s colleague, Coun. DeLynne Patterson, said people being able to drive in rural Ontario at the age of 16 “is a must.”

Patterson said considering there is more traffic in Southern Ontario and more highways with faster speeds, she suggested perhaps the Ontario government may want to consider a different approach to how it licenses drivers from large urban centres compared to those who drive in rural Ontario.

Ward 4 Vaughan Coun. Sandra Yeung Racco drafted the original resolution, which refers to the deadly crash and states that the City of Vaughan Council is deeply saddened and concerned with what happened and “wishes to see changes effected to Ontario’s driving laws.”

Yeung Racco’s resolution also expresses concerns that there are “continued occurrences of serious motor vehicle collisions involving drivers under the age of 18.”

Her resolution asks that the provincial government consider raising the driving age for licensed G1 Ontario drivers to 18 from the current minimum of 16 years of age.

The resolution also directed Vaughan staff to send copies of the resolution to Premier Doug Ford, as well as various cabinet ministers and all Ontario municipalities.

In an email exchange with the Nugget, Coun. Yeung Racco confirmed her resolution was deferred to the September meeting.

In her email response, Yeung Racco said the reason for deferring the resolution was to add more statistics and strength to the motion.

Yeung Racco also said “it is not our intent to change the driving age” and added that the council recognized that this was the responsibility of the province.

Yeung Racco told the Nugget council wanted to “send a strong message on the importance of ensuring we have responsible young drivers behind the wheels.”

The Ward 4 councillor pointed out teenagers at 16 are minors but once they turn 18 they are adults and are held to a higher standard.

She said she will be working with her staff and colleagues to adjust the motion to make a stronger statement, backed up with stats.

The Nugget asked Yeung Racco why a resolution was sent out to various parties before it was voted upon and she said this question would have to be directed to the city clerk’s department.

Both the deputy city clerk, Isabel Leung, and Jennifer Ormston, the senior manager of corporate communications and engagement, responded to the Nugget’s emails.

In response to why a resolution would be circulated to other parties when it didn’t have the vote of the council, Ormston offered the following explanation.

“It is standard practice at the city to share extracts on all items in which the recommendation directs staff to do so, including items that are deferred (as in this case) or referred to another meeting.”

Ormston also said the Extract that was circulated contained the original motion as well as the decision to defer the matter to September.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.