Many driver examiners in Alberta were off the job Thursday after threatening to withhold services if the Alberta government doesn’t meet their demands as it prepares to take back control of the industry.
Driving tests were privatized in 1993 but in March, the NDP said it is bringing them back under government control.
Pete Llewellyn with the Certified Driver Examiners Association (CDEA) says the examiners’ demand for fair market value for their businesses fell on deaf ears, and the government is not going to buy them out.
Llewellyn said the examiners’ plan to withhold services for two weeks, and whether that goes longer, depends on the province.
“Two previous letters that we had sent in to [government officials], they had come back with no compensation,” Llewellyn told Corus Entertainment radio host Danielle Smith on Tuesday.
“We finally sent in a third letter to the minister asking that we would have a meeting with him because the government officials had said no to us. The third letter seemed to ring a bell with him because we had threatened litigation and making this a political issue.”
Holly Kalmring, director of finance with the CDEA, said Thursday the examiners are not “on strike.” She said they’re limiting their availability. Some are continuing some of their contracts but may not be taking on new ones.
Kalmring said there were about 50 driver examiners (and members of CDEA) who didn’t test at all on Thursday.
A spokesperson for Transportation Minister Brian Mason told Global News that, as of 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Alberta Transportation was aware of four driver examiners who declined to offer their services. More than 140 driver examiners are currently active in the province.
Kalmring also said the association is working on legal action against the provincial government which it plans to file soon.
LISTEN: Pete Llewellyn of the Certified Driver Examiners Association joins Danielle Smith to discuss previous meetings with Alberta’s transportation minister
Llewellyn says it’s up to each individual examiner to decide if they want to withhold service, and that he is hoping for up to 80 per cent compliance.
What does that mean for people waiting to complete driving tests?
“They’ll be put off for a while,” Llewellyn said, adding the impact will probably be small. “We’re talking commercial licences: Class 4s, 1s, 2s and 3s, that’s the ones that probably will be affected the most.”
“The government… Is well aware. We sent them a letter. They’re aware of the work stoppage.”
Llewellyn said he’s sorry if this job action negatively impacts Albertans in the short-term.
“I would like to apologize to them but they have to understand they may be inconvenienced, but our livelihoods are being scarified by this government,” he told Global News on Thursday. “All we’re asking for is fair market value for our businesses.”
“What we’re telling people, if you’re not happy with not getting a test, call Mr. Mason’s office and tell him you’re not happy,” he added.
Llewellyn argued that Mason’s office seems not to view driver examination as a legitimate business, despite ongoing business-related taxation.
“You’ve been taking taxes off us — both provincial and federal corporate taxes — so how do you not think that we’re a business when you take taxes away from us?” he said.
“And yet, in our driver examiner manual, it says they recognize that there are businesses in the industry.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Mason said they anticipate any disruptions from a work stoppage to be minimal.
The ministry of transportation also said regulating the industry will help provide consistency in the driver examination process.
“Albertans deserve a road test model that is fair, consistent, reliable and trustworthy,” the statement read. “Having government employees conduct driver examinations is the most effective way to achieve that goal.”
Llewellyn said Tuesday that offers of becoming a provincial employee miss out on the value examiners feel they have built up in their businesses.
“Our livelihoods, what we put into this for 25 years, many of us,” he said. “We would like to be compensated for our businesses.
“Just because you’re offering me a job doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be compensated for my business. A business and a job are two different… They’re apples and oranges.”
—With files from Adam Toy