Killer Bus’ Brakes: “Worn Beyond The Maximum Permissible Limit”

City coroner Maureen Stinnen’s Dec. 3 report into the death of Barbara Supynuk says Supynuk died of massive head trauma on March 25 after a Feb 15, 2013, accident involving a city bus.

Stinnen’s report also says the accident was due to the failure of the left rear brake on city bus #548, which caused it to careen onto the sidewalk and hit a sign post which struck Supynuk — who was waiting for a bus six to eight feet away.

The coroner notes that all four brake drums on the bus were “worn beyond the maximum permissible limit which could impact the overall braking ability.” And the brakes on bus #548 reached this state of disrepair despite transit drivers filling out five Vehicle Defect Reports between Jan. 1 and Feb. 17, 2013 identifying the brakes on that bus as a problem.

During the accident investigation, the failure of the left rear brake was replicated repeatedly in tests of the bus on Feb. 19.

However, according to media reports, deputy city manager Brent Sjoberg previously told the media (on Sept. 9) that the brakes didn’t fail and did not contribute to the accident.

Stinnen’s report also points out that Regina Transit’s Preventative Maintenance Program indicated that maintenance issues have been cited as a problem by Saskatchewan Government Insurance since at least 2010.

Another  problem is the age of bus #548 — it’s an older model that lacked an anti-lock braking system. Stinnen noted that the driver applied constant pressure to the brakes instead of pumping them when the brake system locked.

Beyond the concerns raised by SGI, drivers and spokespeople for the Amalgamated Transit Union have been saying bus maintenance is a problem for many years now. And even though transit ridership was up by nine per cent in 2012, there has been no significant increase to the transit budget. Additional revenue from the boost in fares collected hasn’t made its way into fleet improvements and has, rather, been funneled into general revenue. /Paul Dechene


Pot Policy: SGI > WCB

In late November Carey Heilman received an unwelcome Christmas present when Queen’s Bench judge J.A. Whitmore denied his appeal of a WCB ruling that it would not pay for medical cannabis he’s been using for 10 years to control back spasms associated with a workplace injury.

Heilman uses cannabis under the direction of his physician, and has found relief that eluded him with WCB-funded prescription drugs. Lawyer Nicole Sarauer argued in court that growing evidence existed supporting the medicinal properties of cannabis and that the WCB, in denying her client’s request, was overstepping its mandate and interfering with his medical treatment.

The judge disagreed though, stating that as long as the WCB exercised reasonable diligence in reaching its decision, no right of appeal existed.

In Ontario and Quebec, WCBs have long covered the cost of medical cannabis. In Saskatchewan, SGI does too.

“SGI doesn’t have an official policy on medical marijuana,” says Kelley Brinkworth, manager of media relations. “Any request would be reviewed case-by-case. The request would have to come from the claimant’s physician and it would be reviewed by a consultant to determine if the use was medically [justified].”

The government agencies’ differing approaches raise the issue of fairness. When contacted for comment, a Ministry of Labour Relations & Workplace Safety spokesperson said the WCB operated independent of the ministry. The spokesperson did note, however, that a formal review of WCB procedures was scheduled for 2014.

Speaking for her client, Sarauer says, “I will be sure to keep my eye out for this body to be formed. It would be nice to make a submission on this issue.” /Gregory Beatty