Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness (left) and Gary Lillico (right) at the B.C. legislature. (Contributed)

Agassiz bus driver’s petition garners massive media attention

Gary Lillico was in Victoria on Nov. 18 to support his seatbelt petition for school buses

Gary Lillico is back on the mainland after a whirlwind day in Victoria speaking about his petition to bring seatbelts onto school buses, but what will happen next remains to be seen.

Lillico, a school bus driver in Agassiz, travelled to Vancouver Island on Monday, Nov. 18, to hear local MLA Laurie Throness present his private members bill asking for all new school buses to be equipped with seatbelts starting in 2021.

RELATED: B.C. petition calls for seat belts in new school buses

Lillico had reached out to Throness in the summer, asking him for support with his petition.

“He needed come convincing, he didn’t just say ‘Oh, I’m all in,’” he said. “He wanted to see all the information … and once he had what he needed to know he was all on board.”

When Lillico arrived on the island to hear Throness’ presentation in the legislature, it was non-stop media calls.

“I over the night before, and … the next morning I had to be at the CHEK studio there at 6 a.m.,” he said. “I did that interview, went back to the hotel room, had breakfast, and then the phone never stopped.”

Lillico and his seatbelt petition were broadcast on television, radio and online. He joined Throness for a press conference before Throness presented his private members bill, and answered questions from the media there as well.

“It was awesome,” Lillico said, speaking about the media attention. “That keeps it alive.”

Although the media attention was good, and helped increase the number of people who signed Lillico’s online petition, the response from the government wasn’t everything he had hoped.

Throness’ private members bill didn’t go as far as Lillico’s petition, which advocates for retrofitting all school buses to have seatbelts, rather than just installing them on new buses. But, Lillico said, Throness’ bill is likely more in line with what the government would pursue if they did decide to do something.

“Ideally that’s what I would want, but he made the recommendation for any new buses, school buses that come into service as of 2021,” he said. “Which is kind of the middle ground, and probably more realistic of what we can expect the government to do if they act at all on it.”

The trip also allowed Lillico to meet with transportation minister Claire Trevena, something he had been trying to do for some time.

“She just told me nothing more than ‘I can’t tell you what’s going on with the task force,’” he said. “She … wasn’t making any commitment one way or the other.”

Trevena said she will be waiting on the results of the federal task force before the provincial government makes a decision on what they should do. Those results are expected to be released in January.

“I’d be really surprised if they said they didn’t recommend (seatbelts on buses),” Lillico said about the task force, “but nothing surprises me at this point.”

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