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WHEREAS the Alberta Government supports the sustainability of rural communities and encourages seniors to remain in their homes as long as possible; AND WHEREAS sparsely-populated rural areas face unique challenges to meet public transportation needs of rural residents, including seniors;AND WHEREAS public transportation can be provided by adequately supported and funded volunteer driver programs;AND WHEREAS driver training and liability insurance coverage are significant barriers to the success of a volunteer driver program;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Provincial Government to implement a cost-effective training and liability insurance program for volunteer drivers providing public transportation.
Alberta’s rural communities have a significant population of seniors, low-income families, and others who require transportation assistance for services related to health-care needs, quality of life issues, and personal independence. In many cases, taxi service or other means of public transportation does not exist. Local towns and villages have successfully responded by implementing ‘handi-van’ or other seniors/disabled persons’ transportation programs. In many rural areas however, the cost to maintain similar, coordinated public transportation programs to a sparse population is prohibitive. Friends and family members assist whenever possible, however due to other commitments, transportation needs of a non-emergent nature are oftentimes left unmet. Trips to the local seniors’ facility, grocery store, hairdresser, and even weekly gatherings for ‘tea’ with friends, while not considered essential, are nevertheless integral to the quality of life and independence of individuals in rural communities who would otherwise remain isolated in their homes. While attempts have been made to initiate volunteer driver programs, these programs have been difficult to sustain, due in large part to issues regarding driver liability; specifically the cost of training volunteers and personal vehicle insurance coverage. Many volunteers are more than willing to provide a few hours each week to provide transportation for people in need, however the requirement to obtain periodic police record and reference checks, proper driver certification, and adequate liability coverage is too time-consuming and tedious for many.The Alberta Government, through its Unconditional Municipal Grant Program, provides municipalities with an annual $3.19 per capita grant to assist with public transportation issues. Unfortunately this funding is deficient in addressing both the cost of a viable public transportation program and the cost of training and liability insurance for volunteer drivers. Government support and assistance for blanket training and liability insurance coverage programs would make a significant contribution to the success of a volunteer public transportation program.
The AAMDC has no resolutions currently in effect with respect to this issue.However, resolution 8-04F regarding liability insurance assistance for community groups urges the provincial government to establish a program to limit the liability for directors of community volunteer associations and/or provide funding to assist with liability insurance costs.The government response indicates that the provincial government is not considering any funding to assist with liability insurance costs for volunteer community associations, however some work is underway through the Voluntary Sector Forum at the federal level to address the inability of volunteer organizations to access liability insurance.