Today was the second of two stakeholders’ meetings held by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation in regards to Bill 118 which will ban the use of handheld cell phones while driving in the fall of 2009.
Of course the great concern to the amateur radio community is that we could get swept up in the legislative process. Thankfully at today’s meeting all Ontario amateurs were ably represented by myself, VE3HG, in my position of vice-president of public relations for Radio Amateurs of Canada; Alasdair Robertson, VE3RAA, the executive director of the Canadian Association of Rally Sport; and Neil Macklem, VE3SST, a member of the board of directors for the Toronto FM Communications Society. Both Alasdair and Neil are to be commended on their passionate and persuasive arguments in support of amateur radio. They have done us proud and I could not have been in better company.
So where do we stand?
First, the representation from the amateur radio community was the sole delegation, compared to the many high-powered commercial delegations, which actually understood the technical nature of the issues facing the ministry. And, as such, for some weeks now RAC has been supplying the ministry staff with background information which they used today to explain the overriding technical issues at today’s meeting. We were very pleased to have been able to offered such assistance.
The commercial interests, of which there were many, all came well equipped to argue their economic and safety cases and all made the point that they should be exempt based at least on the economic impact such legislation could have on their industries.
We in the amateur radio community offered forceful comments that the use of two-way mobile radios in any form was a distinctly different form of communications when compared to cellular telephones in both aspects of content of the conversation and in the actual use of the equipment.
We also offered clear and compelling arguments concerning the use of amateur radio during times of community and national need. We spoke of the historic manner in which amateur radio operators in Ontario, across Canada and around the world are prepared to volunteer their time and equipment. We made mention of how we work together through ARES and CANWARN and other organizations. And, how all this and more would be put into jeopardy by Bill 118.
The next step in the process
The ministry staff will be creating specific exemptions (if any). We should have some idea of where we stand in the next 30 to 60 days.
Until then, the best counsel I can offer is to sit tight and let’s let the staff produce a document that will serve the people of Ontario while respecting our rights to operate mobile two-way radios in our motor vehicles.
If more needs to be done, we will call upon the greater amateur radio community at that time. In the meantime, it would help our position immensely and would strengthen my hand at the bargaining table if more hams in Ontario became members of Radio Amateurs of Canada.
Nothing speaks so strongly as one representative who can stand up and state: “I speak on behalf of Canada’s 50,000 federally licensed amateur radio operators.”
We need this kind of strength in numbers and we need it now. And, I’ll admit RAC may not be perfect but we’d be a heck of better association if you and your fellow amateurs were members.
Sign up here: