A father whose son’s organs helped others after he died in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash says he’s disturbed a private member’s bill to increase speed limits on major Alberta highways is moving ahead of one to improve organ donations.
Toby Boulet sent an email this week to United Conservative MLA RJ Sigurdson saying he’s concerned the politician’s private member’s bill on organ and tissue donation isn’t being considered this spring.
“This is disturbing news to say the least as now more lives will be lost,” Boulet said in the email, which he shared with The Canadian Press.
Sigurdson, who represents Highwood in southern Alberta, said his bill didn’t get chosen to be put forward in the current legislature sitting.
“It’s kind of the luck of the draw,” Sigurdson said in an interview Wednesday.
He said he is motivated to get the bill before the legislature because his father suffered from kidney disease. He’s also heard from others in his constituency.
“I’m not sure there is anything that would have more of an impact for Albertans than setting the culture for organ donation,” said Sigurdson.
He said Alberta falls behind the national average when it comes to organ donation — a point that experts have also noted.
“We’ve never really followed through with intentions to put resources and plans into the whole area of organ donation,” Dr. Norman Kneteman, a transplant surgeon at University of Alberta Hospital, said in a recent interview.
Sigurdson said his bill, which is still being drafted, will aim to improve donations by bringing in a better way to register, establishing specialty teams and providing real-time information on donors.
Boulet said in an interview that he’s disturbed that politicians are instead moving forward with a private member’s bill to increase speed limits to 120 km/h from 110 km/h on divided highways.
That bill was introduced on March 10 by Spruce Grove-Stony Plain MLA Searle Turton, who said it would improve commutes and maintain safety by allowing drivers to use speeds highways were engineered for.
Boulet said all it would do is allow people to go faster.
“And with side roads coming on to the highway, it just makes it harder for people to judge the speeds coming at you.”
Boulet said he’s most concerned about rural roads that only have stop signs or flashing lights as they come up to a highway — similar to the intersection where his son, Logan, was killed in Saskatchewan.
Sixteen people died and 13 were injured three years ago when a transport truck driver failed to stop at a sign and pulled out in front of the junior hockey team’s bus.
Six people across Canada benefited from Logan’s organs and nearly 147,000 Canadians registered to be donors in the two months after learning the player had signed his card.
His father said he had hoped Sigurdson’s bill would be tabled this spring.
“It’s not going to happen for a long, long time,” said Boulet.
“Now we have a bill that’s being developed … to save lives with more transplants, and at the same time we have a diametrically opposed bill that in my mind, and in the mind of many highway safety experts, is going to cause deaths.”
Experts said some of Alberta’s divided highways can handle higher speeds, but noted most drivers already tend to go faster than the posted speed limit.
“If it’s not combined with enforcement at 120 (km/h), it’s going to lead to more collisions,” said Don Voaklander, director of the Injury Prevention Centre at the University of Alberta.
“If people are travelling 130 (km/h), there are some pretty well-defined statistics on this: you are going to raise the number of fatal crashes by about 35 per cent.”
Voaklander said Boulet’s concerns are valid.
“Intersections that come on to a major highway can be a problem,” he said.
“If you are coming to one of those stop signs and it’s a major divided highway, it takes a lot of thought to look at the four lanes, what’s coming toward me, what’s coming on the other side.”
Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press