OTTAWA — Transport Minister Marc Garneau says the issue of distracted driving and just what to do about it will be top of the agenda when he meets with his provincial counterparts at the end of the summer.
With the summer driving season in full swing, Garneau said he remains concerned about the increasing number of incidents on Canadian roads caused by drivers fiddling with cellphones or other devices, rather than staying focused on the road ahead.
And he's willing to have a conversation with provincial transport ministers about making distracted driving a federal offence, he said Friday in an interview from Mexico City.
"I'm concerned with the growing number of incidents and accidents involved with distracted driving," Garneau said.
"It's largely provincial jurisdiction — unless it's identified under the Criminal Code, in which case its federal. (But) we should have a conversation about that."
Garneau was in Mexico to sign a number of bilateral agreements, including one to mitigate the threat posed by drones that fly near passenger aircraft, as well as on increasing the number of flights between Canada and Mexico — with WestJet landing a long-sought flight spot.
Garneau said he also had what he called more general discussions about trade, including on the upcoming talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Provincial transport ministers have long been pressing the Liberal government to crack down on distracted driving by making it a federal offence.
A September 2016 briefing note to Garneau suggests officials are leery of the idea.
The Criminal Code already has dangerous driving provisions that include fines and prison time that police could use in distracted driving cases, Garneau was told. A federal law would require police to meet a "more stringent burden of proof than administrative infractions," making prosecutions more difficult — and expensive.
Officials also rejected the idea of mandating radio-jamming devices in moving vehicles, noting their use is prohibited in Canada for public safety reasons.
The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the briefing note under the Access to Information Act.