Liberal MP renews push for bill to protect bus drivers

A Liberal MP says his bill — which would compel judges to consider stricter sentences for people convicted of crimes against bus operators — could become law by Christmas.

Ralph Goodale says private member's bill could be law by Christmas if Tories take it over, start debate

Liberal MP Ralph Goodale, right, looks on as ATU Local 279 president Craig Watson discusses Goodale's private member's bill to amend the Criminal Code. (CBC)

A Liberal MP says his bill — which would compel judges to consider stricter sentences for people convicted of crimes against bus operators — could become law by Christmas.

Ralph Goodale is renewing his pitch almost a week after an Ottawa judge handed a suspended sentence to a man convicted of dragging an OCTranspo driver off his bus and beating him in April.

The leniency of the sentence stunned the driver's union.

On Thursday, the president of ATU Local 279, Craig Watson, stood with Goodale as he announced he's offered to let the Conservative government to take over his private member's bill, which has passed first reading, and begin debate on it almost immediately.

If that happens, Goodale said the change to the Criminal Code could take effect by Christmas.

Bill makes driver's job an aggravating factor

The bill would compel judges to take into account the vulnerable nature of bus drivers when handing down sentences on people convicted of attacking them, essentially making the driver's job an aggravating factor.

Goodale said that would also send a message to counsel to avoid plea deals.

Mayor Jim Watson added his voice to the chorus of unions, police chiefs and municipal leaders backing the amendment to the Criminal Code.

"Our transit operators have chosen to serve the public by getting us home safely. They deserve to be respected and to have a safe work environment,” said Mayor Watson in a media release. “I am pleased that ATU Local 279 is supporting the legislation. I hope my council colleagues will join me in supporting this bill in an effort to improve safety for our operators and passengers."

A motion will be tabled at city council's next meeting Nov. 13 to formally support the bill.

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