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Bill to protect highway construction workers to go to vote

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A government bill to protect highway construction workers is back on the table — Bill 2 will go to a vote in the Manitoba legislature before MLAs break for the holidays Thursday.

Bill 2, the Safety of Workers in Highway Construction Zones, appeared destined to be put on the back-burner of the legislative agenda due to a political squabble between the ruling NDP and Opposition Progressive Conservatives.

But a gentleman’s agreement Monday between NDP House Leader Andrew Swan and Tory House Leader Kelvin Goertzen will see Bill 2 passed in time to be put in force by the spring construction season.

The NDP needed the consent of the Tories to move the bill into second reading and committee because it is not included on the sessional order — the deal between the parties on what bills are to go to a vote before the end of the day Thursday.

"We simply wanted the government to keep their word on the number of bills that would be voted on," Goertzen said.

Swan said the NDP agreed to pull a non-urgent bill off the agenda in order to allow Bill 2 to go forward. Bill 32, The Manitoba Institute of the Purchasing Management Association of Canada Act, will be carried over to the next sitting to begin in mid-March.

"In the interests of workers we think this a good deal and let’s get on with it," Swan said.

Bill 2, which would double fines against drivers who speed through construction zones, had been stuck in first reading since it was introduced Nov. 15, despite four attempts by the NDP to move it through the legislative process.

Bill 2 would amend the Highway Traffic Act to allow law enforcement to impose additional fines of $7.70 for each kilometre per hour of excess speed, an increase from the current $5 per km/h of excess speed. The bill also allows police to issue speeding tickets where no workers are present in keeping with laws in other provinces.

The proposed legislation is in response to the death of Brittany Murray’s in October 2010. Murray, 21, worked as a flagwoman for Mulder Construction, which was resurfacing Highway 207 between the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 15, when she was hit by a 70-year-old driver going nearly double the speed limit.

Michael Blostein was found not guilty of dangerous driving causing death earlier this year. Blostein testified he believed the speed limit was still 90 km/h and he did not reduce his speed to 60 km/h as warned by signs because he didn’t see any workers until he hit Murray. The Crown is seeking a new trial.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

 

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