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Experts call for federal investigation of fatal bus crash Canadian Underwriter

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Experts are calling on the federal transportation safety board to investigate a deadly bus crash in Ottawa to prevent similar incidents from occurring again.

Ahmed Shalaby, a civil engineering professor at the University of Manitoba, said the Transportation Safety Board should be involved in probing the deadly crash to ensure the probe is transparent and recommendations are made to improve safety across the country.

“The bus was carrying 90 passengers,” he said. “Is that not important enough to warrant a federal safety investigation? If it isn’t, then what is?”

A double-decker city bus that struck a transit shelter at the start of the afternoon rush hour on Friday, remains in place at Westboro Station in Ottawa, on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

On Friday afternoon, a double-decker bus operated by local transportation agency OC Transpo hopped a curb and struck a transit shelter, carving deep into the vehicle’s upper level and crushing a number of seats.

A local hospital said one person remains in critical condition, six are listed as serious and four are in stable condition.

The safety board confirmed that they are not investigating the bus crash as the federal independent agency only probes marine, pipeline, rail and air incidents.

“If this bus were a train, the (board) would immediately investigate. That’s not enough to make a difference to me,” said Shalaby, who is also the chair of research program on municipal infrastructure.

The board’s mandate is to advance transportation safety by conducting investigations that result in public reports and making recommendations to improve transit safety.

“As part of its ongoing investigations, the TSB also reviews developments in transportation safety and identifies safety risks that it believes government and the transportation industry should address to reduce injury and loss,” said the Government of Canada website.

It differs from Transport Canada, which develops and administers policies, regulations and services for transportation systems, as the board works to advance safety specifically.

The board investigated a crash in 2013 in which six people were killed in an OC Transpo double-decker bus, but only because a Via Rail train was involved. The train and bus collided during a morning commute in suburban Ottawa, shearing off the front of the bus.

But Shalaby said the kind of vehicle involved in a mass-fatality crash shouldn’t make a difference in what spurs a government-led investigation.

Shalaby said he studied factors contributing to the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, which killed 16 when a transport truck and the bus carrying a junior hockey team collided at a rural intersection in Saskatchewan in April.

“We’ve been here many times before,” said Shalaby. “These federal investigations need to happen, the question is when?”

Shalaby said he wants the City of Ottawa to ask the federal safety board to be involved in the investigation, which is currently being led by Ottawa police.

The police force has released little information about the crash, citing a sprawling investigation dealing with numerous factors that will take time to reveal answers.

Hours after the crash the bus driver was arrested, but she has since been released unconditionally pending further investigation. On Saturday evening, police finished documenting the scene and re-opened nearby roads.

Const. Chuck Benoit said police continue to investigate the circumstances of the crash and if the police force believes additional agencies are needed, they would be sought out.

The city referred to Ottawa police when reached for comment.

Graham Larkin, executive director of Vision Zero, which works towards reducing traffic-related deaths and injuries, said he believes the board should be involved in the investigation since these types of crashes have occurred before.

In 2016, a 14-year-old boy was pinned underneath an OC Transpo bus that jumped the curb and slammed into a bus shelter.

Larkin added that the safety board’s job is to make recommendations, while police aren’t mandated to do so.

Both he and Shalaby said there’s a significant difference in the number of fatalities in road incidents than other modes of transportation the safety board looks into.

In 2016 there were 1,898 motor vehicle fatalities, 66 rail fatalities, seven marine fatalities, and 34 fatalities involving Canadian-registered aircraft, according to the Government of Canada website. It also said there have been no fatal accidents “on a federally regulated pipeline system directly resulting from the operation of a pipeline” since the board was created in 1990, however, one person was seriously injured in 2017.

“It seems crazy to ignore road safety,” said Larkin. “There’s no reason the government shouldn’t be taking a lead on this.”

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Multiple trucking violations by Humboldt semi driver noted in government report Canadian Underwriter

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MELFORT, Sask. – A Saskatchewan government report says the driver of a semi-truck should not have been on the road the day he flew through a stop sign and caused a crash with the Humboldt Broncos team bus.

The report filed during the sentencing hearing for Jaskirat Singh Sidhu notes 51 violations of federal trucking regulations on drivers’ hours and 19 violations of Saskatchewan trip inspection rules.

It includes the 11 days prior to the April 6, 2018, crash at a rural intersection that killed 16 people and injured 13 others.

The wreckage of a fatal collision, involving a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team, outside of Tisdale, Sask., is seen Saturday, April, 7, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

“If Jaskirat Singh Sidhu had been stopped and inspected on April 6, 2018, prior to the incident he would have been placed under a 72-hour out-of-service declaration … preventing him from operating a commercial vehicle,” says the report.

The document is signed by two senior Saskatchewan government officials and is included in the RCMP’s forensic collision reconstruction report.

It expresses concerns about the distances Singh was driving as well as the amount of time he took off to rest.

The report notes that if Singh had accurately documented his time at work on April 1 it ‘would have resulted in the driver being in violation of the maximum on-duty time of 14 hours for the day.”

The report says questions remain about what happened the day of the crash.

“We have strong concerns regarding the timelines of Jaskirat Singh Sidhu’s day on April 6, 2018, as there are unanswered questions as a result of the incomplete log on that day,” it says.

“The identified mileage and distances required to travel to the locations identified in the log and known locations also cause concerns.”

Sidhu had been driving for about a month before the crash occurred.

The owner of the Calgary-based trucking company, Sukhmander Singh of Adesh Deol Trucking, faces eight charges relating to non-compliance with federal and provincial safety regulations in the months before the crash.

They include seven charges under the federal Motor Vehicle Transport Act: two counts of failing to maintain logs for drivers’ hours, three counts of failing to monitor the compliance of a driver under safety regulations, and two counts of having more than one daily log for any day.

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Signs of progress on national flood program for Canada Canadian Underwriter

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Canada is making good progress on a national flood program, pending a final decision by federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) ministers responsible for emergency management.

“What they are looking at is one national insurance solution to improve outcomes for high-risk Canadians across the country,” Craig Stewart, vice president of federal affairs at Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) told Canadian Underwriter in an interview Tuesday. “There may be regional insurance pools adapted to local conditions, but it would be nationally coordinated.”

FPT ministers responsible for emergency management have mandated IBC to lead a national working group to take a look at options and what they would look like. IBC provided three options:

  • A pure market approach (like in Germany and Australia) where governments exit disaster assistance
  • A broadened version of the status quo, but with better-coordinated insurance and disaster assistance
  • Deployment of a high-risk pool analogous to Flood Re in the United Kingdom.

The next step is for the working group, which Stewart chairs, to cost out the pool. “The pool needs to be capitalized as it was in Flood Re,” Stewart said. “So, we need to figure out where that money is going to come from. Is it going to come from governments? Is it going to come from insurers? Where is it going to come from?”

A final decision will be made by ministers after the high-risk pool is costed, which Stewart expects to be completed by June. Decisions on eligibility, how to capitalize the pool, and on any cross-subsidization await the results of that costing analysis.

In addition, this spring, the ministers will hold a technical summit on flood data and science. “Our view of the risk many not align with the government’s view of the risk,” Stewart said. “We need to bridge the gap. This symposium is going to focus on essentially the data and science of flood modelling.”

In early 2020, there will be the launch of a consumer-facing flood risk portal. IBC has been working with the federal government to develop the authoritative flood portal, where consumers can discover their risks and what to do about them.

“Elevating consumer awareness of flood risk is key,” Stewart said. “Consumers aren’t going to be incented to protect themselves or to buy insurance unless they know their risk.”

In May 2018, FPT ministers responsible for emergency management tasked IBC to lead the development of options to improve financial outcomes of those Canadians at highest risk of flooding. IBC worked with a wide range of insurers, government experts, academics and non-governmental organizations to produce the three options, which were tabled with ministers last week.

The ministers released the first-ever Emergency Management Strategy for Canada: Toward a Resilient 2030 on Jan. 25. The document provides a road map to strengthen Canada’s ability to better prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.

“In less than two years, Canadian insurers have secured a mandate with every province and territory to finalize development of a national flood insurance solution, have successfully catalyzed a national approach to flood risk information, have secured over two billion dollars in funding for flood mitigation, and have succeeded in securing a funded commitment for a national flood risk portal,” Stewart said.

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Insurers disagree over meaning of ‘household’ in policy language Canadian Underwriter

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A dispute over what exactly constitutes a “household” in a home insurance policy has reached the Court of Appeal for Ontario.

Several members of the Weiner family were sued after a person drowned in 2010 in a vacation home on Lake Eugenia, about 70 kilometres west of Barrie.

The homeowner was Enid Weiner, who had moved to a nursing home in 2008 or 2009 and has since passed away.

The home was insured by Intact. Enid Weiner was the only named insured, but the policy provided liability coverage for relatives of the named insured while those relatives were “living in the same household” as the named insured.

Whether this means Intact is also providing liability coverage for Enid Weiner’s adult son, Scott Weiner, was a source of disagreement among judges and insurers alike.

Scott Weiner, along with his wife and daughter, were named defendants in the drowning-related lawsuit. Also named was the estate of Enid Weiner. Scott Weiner used his mother’s house as a cottage but did not live there permanently.

Scott Weiner’s own insurer, TD Insurance, settled the lawsuit. TD Insurance took Intact to court arguing Intact has a duty to defend the lawsuit.

As it stands, TD has lost its case.

“The mere fact of co-residence is not enough to constitute membership in a household,” wrote Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Bradley Miller in Ferro v. Weiner, released Jan. 28, 2019.

Initially, Ontario Superior Court of Justice Pamela Hebner ruled in favour of TD. In her ruling, released Apr. 12, 2018, she ordered Intact to pay $62,500, or half the cost of settling the lawsuit.

Justice Hebner found that Scott Weiner was in the same household as his mother. He came to the cottage when he wished and took care of it as if it were his own place.

But Justice Miller of the appellate court countered that, at the time of the accident, Enid was living in a nursing home.

“Scott lived with his family in the city and had organized his life around his urban household. Prior to entering the nursing home, Enid lived with Scott’s brother, and not with Scott and his family,” added Miller, citing several court rulings, including Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Co. v. Bell, released in 1957 by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Wawanesa v. Bell arose after Murley Miller was killed in 1955 while driving a Vauxhall car owned by his brother, John Milley.  Other victims of that accident sued Miller’s estate. Murley lived at John’s home in Sarnia.

The court in the 1957 case defined the term “household” in the following way:

“The ‘household,’ in the broad sense of a family, is a collective group living in a home, acknowledging the authority of a head, the members of which, with few exceptions, are bound by marriage, blood, affinity or other bond, between whom there is an intimacy and by whom there is felt a concern with and an interest in the life of all that gives it a unity.”

Members of a household could include domestic servants and distant relatives living there permanently, the court found in 1957.

“Although a household is not synonymous with a family, the existence of a household is evidenced by the extent to which its members share the intimacy, stability, and common purpose characteristic of a functioning family unit,” Judge Miller of the Court of Appeal for Ontario wrote in 2019 in Ferro v. Weiner.

Members of a household “typically share a residence and resources, and integrate their actions and choices on an ongoing and open-ended basis,” added Miller.

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