Nfld. & Labrador

Ches Crosbie pushes for moose-vehicle compensation despite ruling

Lawyer Ches Crosbie said despite a recent Supreme Court of Newfoundland ruling, the general public supports some form of compensation and increased management measures for victims of moose-vehicle collisions.

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Lawyer Ches Crosbie said despite a recent Supreme Court of Newfoundland ruling, the general public supports some form of compensation and increased management measures for victims of moose-vehicle collisions.

"Opinion polling was done almost a year ago now and over half of the public favoured settling the suit … it has majority support out there in the electorate," Crosbie said.

"The public in my view would [heartily] approve if the government got itself together to resolve this lawsuit, without having to go to appeal, by making a modest payment to those who have suffered so much," he said.

Last week, Supreme Court Justice Robert Stack found the Newfoundland and Labrador government not liable for moose-vehicle collisions.

Crosbie would like to see about 300 km of what he called 'hot spots' across Newfoundland's 900 km stretch of the Trans Canada Highway fenced, to help stop moose from wandering onto the highway — a figure he quoted at a cost of about $42 million.
Brent Cole saw moose-vehicle accidents first hand as a conservation officer with the provincial government, then one day, he became a victim himself. The accident confined him to a wheelchair. (CBC)

"What it is is an investment in the future safety of all of us who travel the highways, which is all of us,” he said, adding that the province should also increase the number of moose licenses each year and redefine the area where moose hunting is allowed while also adding a spring hunt to the already existing annual fall hunt.

Government did not follow protocol

Crosbie said the provincial government did not follow what he called ‘proper protocol’ when the ruling was released. He said usually, the lawyers who represent the clients are informed ahead of time, to give their clients a heads up.

Crosbie said it was unfortunate that many of his clients learned their case had been thrown out through local media reports.

Lets not bicker about it any more, lets get down to it, lets take the bull by the horns and lets save lives,- Brent Cole, moose-accident survivor

“[One of my clients] Ben Bellows, who is quadriplegic, had to find out the bad news on the TV, so that is not the way that that is supposed to happen,” he said.

"It is discourteous in the extreme."

People with close connections to the consequences of moose-vehicle accidents joined Crosbie at the Holiday Inn, including moose-vehicle accident survivor Brent Cole who is now confined to a wheelchair.

Cole thinks government should accept responsibility for cases like his, and continue adding moose-management measures around Newfoundland and Labrador — not scrapping them.

"They couldn't do it fast enough now to stop more people from ending up like me. And God forbid you end up like this," he said.

Brent Cole is joined by other individuals affected by moose-vehicle accidents and lawyer Ches Crosbie. (CBC)
​With that Cole thinks government has taken the opposite approach that they should have in dealing with the issue.

"The sad part about it is, is that [even] if government was to agree tomorrow to do [something], there would be more Brent Coles in wheelchairs, there would be more people in graveyards, there would be more people with neuropathic chronic pain," he said with reference to the slow pace that moose-management decisions take to implement.

No problem taking moose hunt revenues

Cole said that although they may not realize, he thinks politicians are being hypocritical in their approach.

Cole said government is quick to accept the responsibility of the revenue generated through the tax on materials used for moose hunting, along with the revenue generated from moose licenses, but does not accept the responsibility of moose-accidents and the threat the animals pose to the province's people.

"So accept the responsibility, you can't have your cake and eat it too, if you're going to be responsible for the roads and you're going to take the revenues from the moose, accept the responsibility when it comes to dealing with the moose and the safety aspects."

"We don't have to do study projects, we don't have to do pilot projects, [the results of moose-management measures] has been proven all over the country, and New Brunswick is our closest neighbours where they have gone from triple digit critical incident numbers to single digit critical incidents, we can do the same," he said.

Meantime Premier-designate Paul Davis said on the weekend he would like to take a look at Judge Stack's decision further.

"It was an interesting decision. I'd look forward to having a chance to read it further and seeing what comments and how the courts arrived at that decision," said Davis.

Back in his wheelchair Brent Cole is not letting the supreme court ruling dampen his determination.

"Lets not bicker about it any more, lets get down to it, lets take the bull by the horns and lets save lives,” said Cole.

Crosbie launched the lawsuit in January 2011, claiming the province is to blame for failing to control the moose population.