Transcript: Delaying Driver Road Tests | Apr 09, 2021

Jeyan sits in the studio. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and striped blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "Delaying driver road tests. Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. @theagenda."

A wall screen behind him reads "Ontario Hubs."

Jeyan says WHETHER IT'S BECAUSE YOU JUST TURNED 16, OR BECAUSE THE PANDEMIC MADE YOU NEED TO LEARN TO DRIVE, GETTING LICENSED TO HIT THE OPEN ROAD RIGHT NOW IS ALL STOP SIGNS. OUR EASTERN ONTARIO HUB JOURNALIST MARSHA McLEOD HAS BEEN LOOKING INTO THAT AND JOINS US NOW FROM KINGSTON TO EXPLAIN.

Marsha is in her twenties, with long straight auburn hair. She's wearing glasses and a black shirt.

Jeyan continues WELCOME.

Marsha says THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

Jeyan says MARSHA, CATCH US UP TO SPEED. WHY CAN'T PEOPLE GET THEIR DRIVER'S TESTS?

The caption changes to "Marsha McLeod. Eastern Ontario Hubs Journalist."
Then, it changes again to "Wait times."

Marsha says LET'S GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF THE PANDEMIC. I KNOW IT PROBABLY FEELS LIKE A LONG TIME AGO NOW. PRETTY MUCH BY THE END OF MARCH, DRIVE TEST CENTRES ACROSS ONTARIO, WHICH IS WHERE YOU CAN DO DRIVERS' LICENCES AND TESTS. THEY OPENED UP FOR G-1 TESTS. AND AUGUST G-2 TESTS WERE GETTING BACK ONLINE. THOSE WERE ROAD TESTS. PRETTY IMPORTANT BECAUSE THAT'S THE TEST YOU NEED TO DRIVE IN A CAR ALONE. IN SEPTEMBER WE SAW THE FULL G TEST COMES BACK. IT WAS SHORT LIVED BECAUSE BY NOVEMBER CENTRES WERE SHUTTING DOWN AGAIN 23 THEY WERE IN GRAY ZONES. WE HAD THE PROVINCE-WIDE LOCKDOWN. JUST LAST WEEK WITH THE SHUTDOWN ANNOUNCEMENT, ROAD TESTS ARE CANCELLED IN ONTARIO FOR AT LEAST THE NEXT FOUR WEEKS. THE BOTTOM LINE IS MORE THAN A HALF A MILLION TESTS HAVE BEEN CANCELLED, SPECIFICALLY ROAD TESTS IN ONTARIO SINCE THE PANDEMIC BEGAN.

Jeyan says I WANT TO PULL UP A PASSAGE FROM YOUR ARTICLE TO TVO.org.

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Driver test wait times." The quote reads "Drivers describe waiting up to five months for a road test, having three or more tests cancelled in the past year, and constantly checking for tests online, only to see zero slots at their local test centre. On March 29, TVO.org checked for G road tests at 11 test centres in eastern Ontario using the provincial booking website. Nine did not show a single available test in the next 12 months. Of the two centres with available tests, the earliest dates were July 6 and September 17."
Quoted from Marsha McLeod, TVO.org. April 6, 2021.

Jeyan says MARSHA, FRUSTRATING TO SAY THE LEAST. OBVIOUSLY, YOU KNOW, WE'RE TALKING TO NOT ONLY YOUNG DRIVERS, THE 16, 17-YEAR-OLDS WHO ARE GETTING THEIR G-1s AND G LICENCES, BUT YOU'RE ALSO TALKING TO A NUMBER OF PEOPLE, INCLUDING NEWCOMERS. WHAT DID THEY HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE FRUSTRATION?

A screenshot from the TVO website pops up showing an article. It reads "tvo.org/OntarioHubs. Ontario Hubs. How COVID-19 slammed the brakes on almost 300000 road tests. By Marsha McLeod."

The caption changes to "Marsha McLeod, @marshamcleod_."

Marsha says I SPOKE WITH EIGHT DRIVERS, AND I THINK FRUSTRATION IS A GOOD WORD. BUT ANOTHER GOOD WORD COULD HONESTLY BE DESPERATION. I THINK THEY'RE FEELING ABANDONED BY THEIR GOVERNMENT AND HAVE A SENSE OF, DOES THE GOVERNMENT TRULY UNDERSTAND HOW IMPORTANT IT CAN BE TO HAVE A DRIVER'S LICENCE, SPECIFICALLY IN THIS COUNTRY WHERE NOT EVERY PLACE WHERE PEOPLE LIVE HAS GOOD PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, AND ESPECIALLY DURING A PANDEMIC, PEOPLE AREN'T NECESSARILY FEELING COMFORTABLE TAKING PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. AND SPECIFICALLY WITH RESPECT TO NEWCOMERS. I SPOKE WITH THREE NEWCOMERS, EACH OF WHOM HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO GET A ROAD TEST SINCE ARRIVING IN THIS COUNTRY. ONE MAN TOLD ME THAT SINCE HE ARRIVED IN CANADA IN AUGUST OF 2020, AND ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS HE DID WAS GET HIS G-1. BUT HE HAS NOT BEEN ABLE TO GET HIS FULL G LICENCE TO BE ABLE TO DRIVE ON THE ROAD, AND HE SAID IT'S BEEN INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT. HE TAKES THREE BUSES TO GET TO WORK. IT'S REALLY CHALLENGING IN SNOWY CONDITIONS. AND HE CAN'T EVEN BE ABLE TO LOOK FOR TEST... OR LOOK FOR JOBS OUTSIDE OF HIS OWN COMMUNITY.

Jeyan says NOW, YOU ALSO SPOKE TO ONE WOMAN WHO HAD SOME CHALLENGES NAVIGATING. A VERY INTERESTING AND UNIQUE ONE, BUT NONETHELESS A FRUSTRATING EXPERIENCE. WHAT DID SHE HAVE TO TELL YOU?

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Marsha says I SPOKE WITH MAUREEN WALTERS, SHE IS 58 YEARS OLD, SHE LIVES IN SCARBOROUGH AND SHE LIVES WITH FIBROMYALGIA AND OSTEOARTHRITIS. SHE IS BEYOND FRUSTRATION. SHE TOLD ME SHE... THE LAST TIME HER TEST WAS CANCELLED SHE WAS UP UNTIL 2 A.M. ON THE DRIVE TEST WEBSITE LOOKING FOR CANCELLATIONS. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT'S BEEN CHALLENGING FOR HER IS SHE IS ON FIXED INCOME AND DISABILITY SUPPORT. SHE SAID IT TOOK YEARS TO SAVE UP THE 600 dollars TO BE ABLE TO TAKE DRIVING LESSONS AND THOSE LESSONS HAVE BEEN CHOPPED UP OVER THE LAST YEAR. THE LAST WAS IN OCTOBER OF 2020. SHE DOESN'T THINK SHE WILL BE ABLE TO GET A ROAD TEST UNTIL SEPTEMBER OF 2021.

Jeyan says I'M GETTING A SENSE OF, YOU KNOW, DRIVING SORT OF EQUALS FREEDOM IN MANY WAYS FOR PEOPLE. WHAT HAVE PEOPLE TOLD YOU ABOUT THIS IN TERMS OF, YOU KNOW, BEING ABLE TO MOVE FREELY?

The caption changes to "Why it matters."

Marsha says MM-HMM. I THINK FOR SOME PEOPLE IT'S FREEDOM. LIKE, I THINK PEOPLE MIGHT HAVE MEMORIES OF BEING 16, 17, AND GETTING YOUR DRIVER'S LICENCE FOR THE FIRST TIME. I THINK FOR SOME IT'S FREEDOM... YOU KNOW, IT'S INDEPENDENCE. BUT I SPOKE WITH ONE OF WHOM, HER CHILD IS ONLY DAYS OLD RIGHT NOW. THE OTHER, HER CHILD IS 8 WEEKS OLD. AND THEY BOTH SAID TO ME, IT'S REALLY ABOUT GETTING YOUR CHILD AND YOU WHERE YOU NEED TO GO AS SAFELY AS POSSIBLE. FOR THE NEWCOMERS I SPOKE TO, THEY WERE SAYING IN THIS COUNTRY WITHOUT A LICENCE, YOU CAN BE INCREDIBLY ISOLATED, IT'S VERY DIFFICULT TO RUN ERRANDS, DIFFICULT TO GET WHERE YOU NEED TO GO, EVEN TO GET IN THE OUTDOORS. I THINK WHAT PEOPLE HAVE SAID TO ME IS IT'S NOT JUST AN INCONVENIENCE, IT'S PROFOUNDLY DISTRESSING AND, YOU KNOW, IT'S A BASIC NECESSITY IN MANY ONTARIO COMMUNITIES TO BE ABLE TO DRIVE.

Jeyan says DO WE HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT THE GOVERNMENT IS DOING TO ADDRESS THIS PROBLEM?

Marsha says YEAH, SO WHAT THE MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION HAS SAID TO ME IS THAT ONCE ROAD TESTS RESUME, THEY'RE GOING TO HIRE ADDITIONAL EXAMINERS TO HELP CLEAR THE BACKLOG, AND ACTUALLY THE DRIVE CENTRES ARE RUN BY A PRIVATE COMPANY CALLED CIRCA OF CANADA WHO ARE CONTRACTED TO THE MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION. AND THEY ACTUALLY HAVE A STANDARD WHICH THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO BE MEETING WHICH IS THEY NEED TO BE ABLE TO OFFER DRIVERS A ROAD TEST WITHIN 42 DAYS. YOU GO ON THE WEBSITE AND YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO FIND A TEST WITHIN 42 DAYS NEAR YOUR LOCAL TEST CENTRE. THE MINISTRY SAID TO ME THEY SUSPENDED THAT DURING THE PANDEMIC. I SPOKE WITH ONE DRIVER, SHE HAD A TEST SCHEDULED IN 158 DAYS AND THEN IT WAS CANCELLED.

Jeyan says OH, WOW. I IMAGINE THE OPPOSITION CRITICS ARE SAYING THIS IS NOT ENOUGH?

Marsha says YEAH. I SPOKE WITH JENNIFER FRENCH, WHO IS THE NDP CRITIC FOR TRANSPORTATION. WE SPOKE BEFORE THE SHUTDOWN ANNOUNCEMENT. WHAT SHE SAID TO ME IS THAT HER OFFICE IS CONSISTENTLY, FROM BOTH HER CONSTITUENTS AND OTHERS, DURING THE PANDEMIC, THAT THEY'VE BEEN UNABLE TO FIND A ROAD TEST. SHE SAYS THE GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO CLEAR THE BACKLOG. BUT THEY NEED TO DO IT SAFELY, NOT JUST THROWING EXAMINERS INTO SITUATIONS THAT ARE UNSAFE.

Jeyan says OBVIOUSLY A FRUSTRATING EXPERIENCE BUT ANY ADVICE FOR YOUNG DRIVERS OR DRIVERS IN ONTARIO WHO ARE LOOKING TO GET THEIR TESTS BOOKED?

Marsha says MM-HMM. WHAT I HAVE REALLY HEARD AND WHAT I'VE HEARD FROM PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN, QUOTE, UNQUOTE, SUCCESSFUL IN GETTING A TEST IS YOU JUST HAVE TO KEEP ON IT. I'VE HEARD PEOPLE SAY THEY CHECK THE WEBSITE EVERY DAY, MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY. THEY'RE CHECKING FOR CANCELLATIONS. IF A SPOT SHOWS UP YOU GRAB IT IMMEDIATELY. THE NAME OF THE GAME IS CHECKING, CHECKING, CHECKING.

The caption changes to "Producer: Carla Lucchetta, @carrletta."

Jeyan says MARSHA, I WANT TO THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BRINGING ANOTHER IMPORTANT STORY FOR THIS PROVINCE. THAT'S MARSHA McLEOD, OUR EASTERN ONTARIO HUBS JOURNALIST.

Marsha says THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: Delaying Driver Road Tests