More thoughts on Bill 118

It’s the morning after the stakeholders’ meeting held at Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation in regards to the anti cell-phone while driving Bill 118.

Here, in no particular order, are some musings:

  • Hams in Ontario generally favour Bill 118 as it will make driving safer
  • Ham radio was never part of the problem which is distracted driving
  • There is no documented evidence (or any anecdotal information) that suggests that the use of a two-way radio has ever been an issue for anyone using two-way radio in their moving vehicles
  • Currently police officers can use the charge of careless driving (under the Highway Traffic Act) or dangerous driving (under the Criminal Code) to charge anyone who is distracted while driving
  • Of all of the stakeholders at yesterday’s meeting, hams (I think) are the only group that actually understands the technical nature of the problem and, dare I say, the technical nature of the solution
  • Also, of all the stakeholders, hams (I think) are the only group that actually passes a rigorous examination that includes practices and procedures on how to use a two-way radio in a mobile situation
  • Unlike the commercial interests who were at the stakeholders’ meeting, hams have no commercial agenda to defend
  • Our arguments are based on our historic ability to provide emergency communications services to our communities, our regions, provinces and country
  • Around the world, governments in other countries with the exceptions of Yemen and North Korea actively encourage the growth of amateur radio as a resource of technical knowledge and international goodwill
  • Here in Canada, amateur radio is considered a service and not just a hobby
  • However, the use of radio as a hobby ensures two things:
    • (A) We have a trained cadre of volunteers that numbers in the thousands and who can be deployed with hours (if not minutes) in times of need
    • (B) Hams voluntary put out hundreds, even thousands, of their own dollars to equip their vehicles with modern communications equipment
    • Radio Amateurs of Canada has a memorandum of understanding with The Canadian Red Cross Society to provide emergency communications assistance as needed during times of disaster
    • We are asking for a complete exemption from Bill 118 in a similar manner to legislation being considered in Hawaii
    • Bill 118 will be introduced in the Fall of 2009. It will be up to all the hams in Ontario to ensure that it does not unreasonably affect the Amateur Radio Service in this province
    • And how do we do this? I’m (VE3HG) going to keep saying this until someone throws me out of my volunteer position as VP of PR for RAC: Join RAC. Do it today and bring at least two other local hams with you.
    • If, and it’s not certain yet, but if we need to organize to help government create a more effective Bill 118 we are going to need you and your fellow hams to work together
    • Individually we will have zero effect on government and public policy. Collectively we can be a much more persuasive and effective participant in this process of making Ontario’s roadways safer

5 Responses to “More thoughts on Bill 118”

  • Has anyone made the point to the Ontario Ministry of Transport that they now routinely grant Amateurs in Ontario the privilege of putting their callsigns on their motor vehicle license plates at a significantly discounted cost than other so-called “vanity” plates?

    I suspect this privilege was granted at a reduced cost by the MOT in recognition of our proven record of providing assistance to local, provincial and national authorities in times of emergency and also to identify us as Amateur Radio operators to the proper authorities while doing so.

    It seems rather counterproductive to now deny us the use of our radios in those very same amateur radio callsign plated vehicles.

    In addition, our Certificates of Proficiency are granted by a federal agency (Industry Canada). It seems to me a good case could also be made that, should this bill become law in its present form, a provincial entity (Ontario) would now be attemtpting to regulate activities granted and controlled by a federal agency under a federal certification.



  • Keith your comment is right on. We brought the license plate issue to MoT ‘s attention as well as the fact that we are federally licensed to operate our amateur radio equipment in our vehicles.

    Stay tuned in to the RAC Blog as I will post the most recent information here. We should know more in 30 to 60 days.

  • Hi Peter

    As the EC for Ottawa since 1995, I am still amazed at how many Amateurs are stuck in a 1950-1960 view of Amateur radio as an emergency communications resource.

    Most emergency communications is VHF, so a VHF mobile is all you need. Most communications is not from your house or car, but rather from a shelter, Red Cross or other fixed site. The ability to take your radio and yourself out of the house or car, to where it is required is what is needed.

    The thousands of Amateurs ready to deploy in minutes or hours is myth and legend. We just had a district meeting for Eastern Ontario and all the groups have the same problem, a lack of sufficient resources to survive if called. There are about 1000 licensed amateurs in Ottawa, and our groups has 20 active members and another 20 names on the list. Even a simple deployment will take at least 50 Amateurs per day.

    If you bought an expensive radio for your vehicle you did it because you could and that is what you wanted. As I mention above, all that is really required for most situations is a VHF mobile.

    The sigificance of Amateur plates as an identification of a mobile communicator went out with air raid sirens. Many Amateurs have plates but no radio, have a radio but no one is on the local repeater and few people know what the plates even mean.

    The reality for mobile radio operation is that for Amateur radio, it is no different than a Taxi, fleet vehicle or other using a mobile radio with a microphone attached. We need to make sure we focus on the facts and not try to rely on saying we are special.

    Perhaps only Amateurs registered with their local Municipality and doing 5 hours of volunteer work per month should be allowed to have a radio in their vehicle. That would reduce the number of people right now to about 1% of Amateurs.

    I am writing this because I get frustrated actually putting in the thousands of dollars and hours for Emergency Communications, having a great relationship with our City where we are supported and encouraged, then having only a handful of working volunteers and reading about the thousands who want to ride on our back.

    Unless you are registered and involved in your local Amateur radio communications group, whether it is the local club, ARES, REACT or other, then you are not involved. If I own a gun, I am not a soldier, if I own a boat, I am not volunteer water rescue and if I own an Amateur radio, I am not an emergency communicator, unless I have the additional tools and skills required and am part of the larger solution.

    Peter – VE3BQP
    Team Leader – Emergency Measures Radio Group
    EC – Ottawa ARES
    - Two names, one group, one purpose -

  • Hi Peter:

    I can read your frustration but hasn’t that always been the case? We all come into amateur radio for our own reasons. Some of us enjoy serving our communities by using our skills and equipment. Many do not. But in times of need, which tend to be unpredictable, amateur radio can provide a volunteer, ad hoc, cadre of people on the scene very quickly.

    While I appreciate the efforts of those who are dedicated to helping out I think there’s lots of room for the more casual operator. And, just like RAC, if we want to attract more people to join us, it’s worthwhile to have a look at the benefits we are actually offering them.

    In my experience, it all comes down to if we’re doing worthwhile things in an enjoyable manner that encourages camaraderie and provides benefits for our members we’ll be joined by like-minded people and our ranks will grow.

  • Hi Peter

    There is little place for the “casual operator” in emergency communications. In most of the large events, these people were sent home. Unfortunately that message gets very small print. The walk in volunteer does not understand who is in charge, what is required and how things function. For example, the cop at the shelter is NOT in charge. Don’t ask them what you should be doing. How often are you using packet radio with Outpost or Winlink?

    Amateur radio needs to decide if we are a viable solution (requires work), or if we are a best effort when called solution (may never be called).

    If we want to be a viable solution, then we need to put some effort into it and make some comittments. We need to make an effort to participate in small events, practice events, training, etc.

    If we want to be a best effort when called ad hoc solution, based on who is available when called and they bring what they have, then we need to be clear on that. Understand that none of our clients are looking for an adhoc, best effort solution. They have plans and they need to know they are partnering with groups who are equally comitted to supporting these plans.

    We cannot do nothing, and claim we are a mighty communications force. In many areas, Amateur radio is dead as an emergency communications solution and in others it is dying. This is why groups like the American Red Cross continue to invest in their own portable communications solutions. Yes RAC has an agreement with the Red Cross, but it is just a peice of paper between 2 national offices. It is only useful if implemented at a local level.

    I’m tired of listenting to Amateurs say they are a “Service”, that Amateurs will be there in an emergency, then tell me that as a hard working volunteer I should be doing more to make it interesting and exciting for them so they will get involved. Imagine if volunteer Fire Depts were this non comitted.

    Peter – VE3BQP

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