Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut November 16, 2016 - 10:00 am

Territorial car levy, new licenses on deck for Nunavut drivers

Changes to Motor Vehicle Act would allow instant 24-hour licence suspension for impaired drivers

Attention all Nunavut drivers: the legislative assembly is likely to change the Motor Vehicle Act to make it illegal to drive while holding a cell phone in your hand. (FILE PHOTO)
Attention all Nunavut drivers: the legislative assembly is likely to change the Motor Vehicle Act to make it illegal to drive while holding a cell phone in your hand. (FILE PHOTO)

Graduated driving licenses, new impaired driving provisions and an end-of-life vehicle levy are among some of the proposed amendments to Nunavut’s Motor Vehicle Act, which was given second reading by MLAs Nov. 8 at Nunavut’s legislative assembly.

The proposed amendments include a legal framework that would allow the Government of Nunavut to establish a territory-wide end-of-life vehicle fee system.

Those fees would likely be based on a vehicle’s class and age and provide owners with opportunities to pro-rate their fees and get refunds, the proposed amendment said.

Iqaluit City Council has been outspoken about the need for made-in-Nunavut legislation regulating the growing number of old vehicles in the territory.

“The whole issue about levying an import fee is something that requires the territorial government to amend their legislation,” Iqaluit mayor Madeleine Redfern said at an Iqaluit city council meeting, Aug. 25.

“Right now, those fees are levied in [other] jurisdictions and shipped up. Those disposal fees have actually been charged to the customer, but in that jurisdiction, yet we are faced with the actual disposal of those items. None of that disposal money is given to us.”

Iqaluit councillors recently decided to continue subsidizing the disposal of scrap cars, arguing that the $1,000 disposal charge is too much of a burden for Iqalungmiut, especially those with older vehicles.

Nunavut’s director of transportation, Art Stewart, told city council in October that new legislation is required to draft the fee scheme and payment plans for an end-of-life levy, but admitted that $1,000 at-cost was “not totally unreasonable.”

The territorial amendment would also set aside provisions to begin a graduated licensing system, similar to southern jurisdictions, for new Nunavut drivers.

Under the proposals, new drivers would first apply for a learners permit, followed by a theoretical exam and probationary license and road test—prior to being issued a full drivers license.

The amendments take into account Nunavut’s diversity of languages and education, and provides for the theoretical exam to be administered orally or through an interpreter.

The proposals do not acknowledge how those tests would be conducted in smaller Nunavut communities, most of which do not have a dedicated motor vehicles office.

There would be zero tolerance for new drivers who drink alcohol and get behind the wheel.

Learning or probationary drivers pulled over with a blood-alcohol level higher than zero would have their license immediately confiscated and suspended for 30 days, under new impaired driving regulations in the amendments.

The legislation also formalizes graduated penalties for drinking and driving, similar in the South, for drivers found with more than 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, and also more than 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

Both violations, along with possible criminal charges, would earn drivers a 24-hour suspension for a first offence, or 30- to 90-day suspensions for repeat offenders.

The use of all hand-held devices, such as smartphones, will be prohibited for drivers.

No date is given for third and final reading of the Motor Vehicle Act amendments, which will also be renamed the “Traffic Safety Act,” but these will now go to a standing committee.

The Nunavut legislature has now adjourned until Feb. 20, 2017 when the winter sitting gets underway.

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