Rural Manitoba parents frustrated after summer spots for driver’s ed program fill immediately

Some parents in rural Manitoba say they’re having a hard time getting their kids into a provincial driver’s education program because there aren’t enough available spots.

Aimee Sobry, who lives near Reston, tried to register her son in Manitoba Public Insurance’s Driver Z program, but the local school division wasn’t offering courses.

She committed to making a roughly 100-kilometre drive to Brandon twice per week with her 15½-year-old son, Carter, but when she tried to register for a course there, MPI told her it was only able to offer one course in Brandon, and it was open only to students there.

“We farm … [and] it’s a benefit for him to have his licence” to help out, she said. “It’s frustrating that it’s just the city kids that get the advantages.”

But one Brandon parent said he faced the same situation.

Dave Federowich said he showed up to an MPI service centre just after 8 a.m. earlier this week to register his 15½-year-old son for Driver Z. He said he was quickly told the spots had been filled, and to try again in the fall.

He called it the quickest trip to an MPI office he’s ever had. 

“I was puzzled as to how they could’ve gotten through 24 spots in a half hour,” he said.

“For us it was really disappointing.… Other people that were there ahead of us in line, there were some parents yelling in the office that it wasn’t fair and whatnot.” 

Many Manitoba teens have the day they turn 15½ circled on their calendar, since that’s when they can start learning to drive — but only if they’re registered for the Driver Z program.

“When they don’t offer the Driver Z in a timely manner, then that pushes those kids even further,” said Sobry. “So we’re looking at some kids that are close to 17 before they can even attempt for their road test.” 

She said she doesn’t disagree with making young drivers take the program, but thinks it should be more available in rural Manitoba, or courses in urban areas like Brandon should have more spots available.

Shortage of qualified instructors: MPI

MPI said registration for the summer Driver Z sessions opened Wednesday for Winnipeg, Brandon, Winkler, Steinbach and Beausejour.

However, due to high demand, all of the summer spots had been filled by Thursday, the Crown corporation said in a statement to CBC.

MPI also said it offers a limited number of courses for the summer term through its service centres in various communities.

MPI said during other terms, it partners with local schools to host Driver Z sessions, but its ability to offer the program is also dependent on availability of qualified instructors in any given community.

MPI said it recognizes the current demand for Driver Z courses in rural Manitoba is significantly greater than the number of spots offered, the statement said, but it’s limited by a shortage of qualified instructors.

The statement also said it expects more than 4,000 seats will be available in communities across the province when registration for the fall Driver Z program opens later this summer.

Dates and availability will be shared on MPI’s website by early July, the corporation said. 

Alicia Grassinger, a councillor in the Rossburn municipality, about 100  kilometres northwest of Brandon, said the issue isn’t new.

She’s contacted MPI about her concerns around the small number of seats for the driver’s ed program after trying to register her daughter.

“I said to them, ‘This isn’t a babysitting course, this is experience for our youth to go out into the world and learn,'” she said. “All they came back with [was] that if I gave them my daughter’s name they would try to get her into a course.” 

Her worry is that “next year, it’s going to be the same thing for the same amount of parents.”

Sobry said she hopes things will change before then.

“It’s frustrating … in the rural area, where programs that should be offered to everyone aren’t, and we’re just expected to sit back and be like, ‘Well, it’s because we live where we live.'”

Parents fuming in rural Manitoba, as demand for driver’s education program far outstrips supply

2 hours ago

Duration 1:09

Some parents in rural Manitoba aren’t happy after their children weren’t able to secure a spot in the province’s driver’s education program. Manitoba Public Insurance says demand for the course is significantly greater than the number of spots it’s able to offer, due in part to a shortage of instructors.