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Thursday, March 07, 2013

Why Is the Province of Ontario keeping secre : The thousands of complaints against driving schools

A Toronto Star investigation: The thousands of complaints against driving schools the province is keeping secret

The Ministry of Transportation won’t tell the public anything about the complaints lodged against driving schools or the hundreds of instructors who have lost their licences.

The Ministry of Transportation won’t tell the public anything about the complaints lodged against driving schools or the hundreds of instructors who have lost their licences.

By: 

The province is refusing to tell the public anything about the 
thousands of complaints lodged against driving schools or the 
nearly 500 instructors whose licences were revoked in the 
past five years.
The Star asked the Ministry of Transportation for the 
information as part of its ongoing probe into GTA driving 
schools. In a story published Tuesday, the Star revealed that 
dozens of driving schools are offering lessons to new drivers 
without provincial approval or oversight.
The ministry told the Star nearly 4,000 pages of complaints 
have been lodged against Ontario driving schools since 2007, 
but that the Star would have to pay $7,500 for copies of the 
complaints.
When the Star asked the ministry to identify the 477 driving 
instructors whose licences were taken away and the reasons 
why, the ministry said that information is not public.
“The names of instructors that have been revoked and the 
specific reasons for the revocation contain information that is 
personal in nature,” said ministry spokesman Bob Nichols.
But Bill Pollock, a master driving instructor qualified to teach 
other instructors, said the ministry should make it easy for 
the public to look up online the names of instructors, to 
ensure they have a valid licence or to find out if they have 
faced complaints.
“There should be transparency and the ability to check on 
people’s qualifications to do their job, especially when it’s 
your kid’s life at stake. Right now, there’s no ability to do any 
of that,” said Pollock.
Currently, the ministry publishes the names of provincially 
monitored driving schools that have had their licences 
revoked, but does not make public the reasons for the 
revocations. The Star’s position is that these reasons should 
be released because they would reveal trends and problem 
areas in driver instruction in Ontario.
The ministry does not monitor schools that are not licensed 
to teach beginner drivers, which is why some schools are able 
to fly under the radar.
Instructor licences can be revoked for a variety of reasons, 
including the accumulation of more than three demerit 
points, a driver’s licence suspension or a criminal conviction. 
Driving instructors must renew their licences every three 
years.
Master instructor Pollock said many new drivers and parents 
don’t realize they have the right to ask instructors to display 
their ministry-issued instructor licence, which includes a 
photo similar to a driver’s licence.
Because these licences don’t have to be returned when they 
are revoked, driving instructors can easily masquerade as 
being properly licensed even though they aren’t, said Pollock.
NDP transportation critic Gilles Bisson said the ministry is 
holding back information to which the public is entitled.
“If the public knows, OK, this is a driving school that is 
certified and these instructors are also certified, and there’s 
an easy way for me to confirm that, I know what school to 
pick and which one not to pick,” he said.
“It’s a question of safety for me as a consumer.”
The ministry’s $7,500 price tag for details about complaints 
against driving schools came after the Star filed a freedom of 
nformation request. The Star is appealing the decision.
The Star is also filing a freedom of information request in an 
attempt to obtain the names of the 477 driving instructors 
who had their licences revoked and the reasons why.
Progressive Conservative transportation critic Frank Klees 
said it is “unconscionable” the government would force the 
public to go through the freedom of information process to 
find out about complaints “that should be, quite frankly, on 
the website.”
“I am surprised that the new transportation minister (Glen 
Murray) would condone this,” Klees said, adding he hopes 
“when the new minister has an opportunity to consider this 
and put it into the context of consumer protection and what 
is in the public interest, that he would direct his ministry to 
make this information available.”
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