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Thursday , 21 October 2021

Lakeland residents waiting to find out when they can take driver exams

Teens and newer drivers trying to get their Class 5 license are being forced to wait until the province sends an examiner to the area.

Since the Government of Alberta took over driving exams from the private sector on Mar. 1, there are no local examiners available to do tests in the Bonnyville, Cold Lake, St. Paul, and Lac La Biche area.

“All the tests are to be booked online. And if you tried to book it online, you only get so far and they say there’s nothing available for this area,” said Kelly Wood, Woods Driving School in Bonnyville.

“I get stuck in the middle. I get a lot of parents phoning me about what’s going on and nobody’s answering.”

The province has half of the 150 or so examiner positions filled and are currently working to hire and train the rest.

Terry Wallace, executive director of driver programs for the province, said the system hasn’t been perfect since March 1.

“We were just concerned we needed to establish stability in the system between all of the moving parts based on historical data. We just guessed what the typical rollout would be for March. We got pretty close in some areas.

“I’m not sure we got that close in the Bonnyville area and I apologize for that. I can tell you that very quickly that it’s going to get way better,” said Wallace.

Wallace said there were some glitches with understanding the demand for driving exams, but are working to solve the problem quickly.

“I can assure you that my instructions to the team and the instructions I received from the minister were very clear, I was to improve services in rural Alberta and it was one of the driving forces to bring it back in-house.

“One of the things we worked within this new system is that the availability will be there, they will be government employees, they will be accountable. We will provide services to Albertans in the best manner we can.

“I think if you give me a month or two, I think you’ll the service levels in a lot of rural areas are actually much, much better than they were before,” said Wallace.

Jean-Marc Michaud was a private examiner until Feb. 28 and didn’t apply for the government position because he said the new position meant they would have to move.

“They wanted us to be subject to the cost at their discretion and that wasn’t going to happen either because I’m retired and I’m not planning on moving to the city,” said Michaud.

He says the new provincial system was rushed.

“They weren’t ready. If they would’ve set it six months down the road, a year, it would’ve been possible. But they had basically a month, but it’s not possible.”

Wallace said that the province was as flexible as they could be when recruiting examiners.

He hopes soon they’ll have all the positions filled and that people can book tests online into April and May.

“We have two recruitment teams in South and North, they assure me in a very short amount of time we will have hired all the staff we intended to hire. Then it’s a matter of getting caught up with the training,” said Wallace.

“You will see a vast improvement very shortly.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.