WATCH ABOVE: The Ontario government defends 30 business day wait times to have a drivers licence reinstated. Alan Carter reports.
TORONTO – A semi-retired substitute teacher in Scarborough had his licence taken away after suffering, what he was originally told, was a stroke.
But less than a week later, doctors told him it wasn’t a stroke. That was on January 13 and he’s still fighting to get his licence back.
“30 business days. That’s more than six weeks of real time, and this is in the electronic age,” David Wallace said. “That is absolutely appalling. What business would get away with that? Nobody.”
Doctors still don’t know what happened to Wallace but think his symptoms, which mirrored those of a stroke, may have been the result of a reaction to a drug given to him a few days prior to the incident by an optometrist.
He was reading the newspaper on Saturday, January 10 when the symptoms struck. He realized something was wrong when he couldn’t read the words on the page. He called his daughter who took him to Scarborough General Hospital, where the ER doctor suggested he may have had a stroke and said his licence would be suspended.
On Monday, January 12, he went to a neurologist who confirmed to him that he did not have a stroke.
“I was cleared before my licence was actually suspended,” he said.
The Ministry of Transportation can suspend a person’s driver’s licence if a doctor claims that certain medical conditions like suffering strokes or seizures would affect the ability to drive.
WATCH: Ontario’s transportation minister talks about what happens when a licence is suspended for medical reasons
Wallace has given the medical documents proving he didn’t have a stroke to the ministry. The ministry allows itself 30 days to figure out whether the information provided by doctors is accurate and to overturn the suspension.
“The ministry of transportation has a very strong record of making sure that we meet or exceed that standard of 30 business days,” Minister of Transportation Stephen Del Duca said.
It’s only been 25 business days since Wallace’s incident.
“But again, it’s of paramount importance to me to make sure that the people on our roads who are driving cars and vehicles are medically fit to do so and I believe the system that we currently have in place is appropriate in terms of that length of time.”
While Del Duca says Ontario usually meets the timeline, the opposition parties say they’ve received countless complaints otherwise.
“That’s absolutely false. That’s absolutely incorrect,” Progressive Conservative MPP Michael Harris said.
“We have constituents and have heard from folks across the province of Ontario who have been give a clear bill of health from their doctor, who have applied to have their licence reinstated, who have waited in excess of 30, 60, 90, even in some cases well over 100 days to have their licence reinstated.”
Over 26,600 people had their licence suspended for medical reasons in 2013. Of those, only 139 people formally appealed the suspension. The province doesn’t have a number of how many people had their suspensions overturned.
But the province received 281,496 calls to the MTO’s Medical Review Section. A ministry spokesperson cautioned that people called for a variety of reasons and they weren’t always complaints.
But Wallace tried calling, staying on hold several times for more than an hour and couldn’t get through to anyone.
“I think as an Ontario taxpayer, I’m getting absolutely no service whatsoever for my tax dollars and I’m very unhappy about this. Premier Wynne has promised that her government would be open, transparent and as a citizen, I don’t see that, and I’m unhappy.”
NDP leader Andrea Horwath told reporters at Queen’s Park Thursday that regardless of how many are overturned, the process needs to be faster.
“It’s inappropriate and it’s just wrong to have people have to put their lives on hold for a month. How do they get to work, how do they get to their everyday chores, how do they get to their doctors‘ appointments, how do they get through their everyday lives?”
– With files from Alan Carter