Since driver training with AMA in his Ford Maverick as a teenager, the Honourable Brian Mason, Minister of Transportation and longtime AMA member, has been on the move. He was a professional driver before entering politics and now he’s leading Alberta Transportation—one of the government departments that AMA has worked closely with throughout its history. The Minister is motoring ahead to keep Alberta roads safe amidst a transformative mobility landscape that includes changes like ride sharing, autonomous vehicles and the legalization of marijuana. We recently sat down with him to get his perspective on a few issues important to AMA members and all Alberta drivers.
What’s your department doing to get ready for the legalization of cannabis?
First, we’re preparing public education campaigns. Our message is that driving under the influence of any substance—alcohol or drugs—impairs your ability and poses a risk to you and other motorists sharing the road. It can’t be tolerated.
I think a lot of people believe that driving under the influence of marijuana isn’t as bad as driving under the influence of alcohol, but the evidence shows otherwise. We’re also working to upgrade our legislation to treat drug-impaired driving the same as alcohol-impaired driving. And we’re working with enforcement agencies to develop good roadside testing.
What’s your goal in reviewing photo radar in the province?
To ensure that photo radar is located where it can improve road safety to the greatest degree. There is a perception that photo radar is all about maximizing revenues. This is unfortunate as there are potential safety benefits—if it’s used in the right places. If there are cases where photo radar is being used just to generate revenue, then it’s being misused and this needs to be corrected.
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When you think of your time as Transportation Minister, what legislation are you most proud of?
Putting an appropriate regulatory regime in place for Transportation Network Companies (TNC) like Uber. People thought we were going to ban Uber, but our goal was to make sure there was a level playing field with other industry players, like taxis, and make sure that the public is safe.
We want people to feel safe getting into a car with someone, whether that’s a taxi or an Uber vehicle. That meant requiring a police check, proper insurance and Class 4 driver’s licence. If someone uses any TNC, they should also be insured and financially protected. Everything we do is about making sure people can get where they need to go in an efficient and safe manner.
Safety at the roadside for tow truck drivers and members is a big concern. What can be done to ensure they stay safe?
I know AMA has shared these concerns and suggested making changes to our Slow Down, Move Over legislation so that it’s clearer for everyone. I will consider the changes suggested to make it mandatory for all lanes of traffic travelling in the same direction to slow down to 60 kilometres per hour. I will also review the legislation Saskatchewan recently passed to allow tow trucks to have both blue and amber flashing lights so that they’re more visible on the side of the road, particularly in poor weather conditions.