Auditor General of Ontario’s 2008 Annual Report: Court Backlogs Getting Worse and Tickets Have Dramatically Increased in the Ontario Cities of: Ottawa (155%), York (95%) and Toronto (78%).

Update:

2008 Annual Report of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario:

The Auditor General Jim McCarter has released his December, 2008 Annual Report.  In it he states that in Ontario Court backlogs still exist and that the backlogs are the worst in the last fifteen years.

He also analyzed what has gone on in the Municipalities across Ontario, since power was transferred to them from the Province in Ontario in 1999 under the Provincial Offences Act and the Ontario Highway Traffic Act to issue certificates of offence (tickets) and to fine and collect fines from motorists.  He found that from 1999 to 2007 some cities (within different municipalities) appeared to be more overzealous than others (see figure 11 at bottom of page) and thought it could be associated with the ability to generate revenue for the particular Municipalities involved:

1999 to 2007 (top 4) :

Ottawa:  Tickets are Up 155%

York:      Tickets are Up   95%

Toronto: Tickets are Up 78%

Durham: Tickets are Up 50%

Court Backlogs getting Worse: Auditor General

(TORONTO) Despite major funding increases over the last five years aimed at reducing the backlog
in Ontario courts, backlogs have continued to grow and now stand at their highest level in 15 years, Ontario’s Auditor General Jim McCarter says in his 2008 Annual Report, released today.
“These backlogs can have serious ramifications,” McCarter said. “Defendants can take advantage of delays to argue their cases should be dismissed; witnesses’ memories can fade; and long delays are unfair to accused persons, who deserve to have criminal charges resolved in a reasonable period of time.”
The increased backlog was identified in a value-for-money audit of the Court Services Division of the Ministry of the Attorney General, which spent $400 million in the 2007/08 fiscal year. The Auditor General had warned in his reports of 1997 and 2003 that court backlogs were growing, particularly for criminal cases. In response, the Ministry took a variety of measures to address the problem and increased spending by $100 million over the past five years to reduce the backlogs. But the backlogs have continued to grow.

The Report noted that:

  • Over the last five years, the court system has had to cope with a growing number of criminal charges. In the Ontario Court of Justice, the number of charges grew by 17% to more than 275,000.
  • In 1992, the Supreme Court of Canada provided a guideline of eight to 10 months as a reasonable period within which a case should go to trial—some cases awaiting trial for a longer period risk being   dismissed. Compared to five years ago, there are 16% more such cases where criminal charges were laid eight or more months ago and are still before the courts.
  • The backlog is caused in large part because the average number of court appearances to dispose of a case has increased to 9.2 from 7.3 in 2002 and 5.9 in 1997.
  • To be on par with other provinces, Ontario would have to hire a significant number of new judges and justices of the peace and provide more support staff.

2008 Annual Report of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario See Chapter 3 – VFM Section 3.07 – Page 230

As of February 2002, the government had transferred to municipalities responsibility for the administration
and prosecution of most charges that fall under the Provincial Offences Act, including Highway Traffic Act offences.

Oversight of Municipally Administered Courts

(Found under “Court Services” Chapter 3 – VFM Section 3.07, Pages 227 – 229 inclusive)

As mentioned above, in 1999 the government started to transfer to 52 participating municipalities the responsibility for the administration and prosecution of most charges that fall under the Provincial Offences Act (POA), including the collection and retention of fines for these charges. Most of the fines transferred were for offences committed under the Highway Traffic Act, which falls under the POA. Since the responsibility was transferred, municipalities have been required to pay the costs for administering courts, prosecutions, and the collectionof fines, and to reimburse the province for its associated costs, including the cost of justices of the peace who preside over municipally administered courts, and the cost of the municipalities’ use of the ICON system for tracking offences and payments.

Under transfer agreements established with these municipalities, the Ministry sets performance standards for the conduct of prosecutions, for the administration of the courts, and for the provision of court support services.

In general, we found that the Ministry had established adequate procedures and standards for municipal delivery of court services and for monitoring municipalities’ compliance with these standards. Controls included ministry audits and regular reporting by municipalities. For instance, over the last four years, the Ministry conducted audits of financial and operational practices at about 70% of the municipalities that administer courts.

In late 2004, the Ministry established a committeewith provincial, municipal, and judicial representatives to discuss issues related to municipally administered courts. We noted that the committee had discussed several issues related to improving support for the municipalities’ court operations, as follows:

  • In 2002, the province transferred to municipalities the right to collect $485 million in fines that were uncollected by the Ministry at that time, most of which had been outstanding for several years. Since then, the amount of uncollected fines has grown: for example, in 2007, municipalities imposed fines totalling $289  million and collected approximately $215 million. By December 2007, the total fines owed to municipalities had grown to more than $900 million. Municipal courts can only apply enforcement measures authorized by the Ministry.

These measures include the use of collection agencies and, in the case of unpaid Highway Traffic Act fines — which represent about 75% of all unpaid fines—driver’s licence suspensions or the denial of vehicle plate renewals. Municipalities complain that stronger enforcement measures are neededto collect fines that are in default. We understand that for the Ministry to authorize further measures, it may require legislative changes and co-operation with other ministries, such as the Ministry of Transportation.

  • Backlogs at municipally administered courts have resulted from the increase in the number of charges laid by municipalities and the lack of enough justices of the peace available to handle the increase. From 2005 to the end of 2007, pending charges grew by 34%—to over 380,000. In 2007, the Ministry increased the number of justices of the peace by 45 full-timeand 28 part-time positions and converted 19 non-presiding justices of the peace to full-time presiding positions. This has subsequently helped to reduce the backlog. However, municipalities informed us that the Ministry’s failure to address the problem earlier has had significant ramifications.  Municipal representatives told us that they had to close courtrooms and dismiss charges because of insufficient judicial resources to handle cases within a timely period. For example, one municipality indicated that close to 40% of available trial time was lost in 2007, primarily because there were not enough justices of the peace. Another municipality estimated that it dropped about 10,000 charges in 2006 and another 2,900 in 2007, with potential lost revenue of almost $700,000.

In addition, we found that the Ministry’s oversight role with respect to municipally administered courts was limited to municipal delivery of court services and related financial and operational matters. However, the Ministry’s oversight did not include consideration of overall policy implications, such as what the impact of allowing municipalities to retain fines levied under the Highway Traffic Act and other POA offences had been. We found, for instance, that charges issued by most municipalities had increased significantly after municipalities assumed responsibility for the administration and prosecution of most charges that fall under the POA.  In particular, we compared the number of POA charges imposed by each participating municipality, both before and  after the transfer agreements were established, with the number of charges issued by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) to determine if the introduction of new revenue-generating powers might have influenced municipalities’ charging practices.

As Figure 11 shows, there were significant increases in the charging practices of certain municipalities.
Some municipalities increased charges by over 100% whereas others had virtually no increase. Overall, municipal  charges under the POA increased by 57%. By way of comparison, OPP charges under the POA increased by only 20% during the same period. Overall fines imposed by municipalities across the province increased 32%, from $219  million in 1999 to $289 million in 2007. At the time of our audit, the Ministry had not formally analyzed whether its policy decision had resulted in significant changes to municipal charging practices.

Figure 11: Comparison of Charges Laid by Municipalities* and the OPP under the Provincial Offences Act,
1999 and 2007 Source of data: Ministry of the Attorney General

City19992007%  Increase
City of Toronto38175668029778
Regional Municipality of York7136013892295
City of Ottawa49715126794155
City of Brampton530387302238
City of Mississauga60870617882
City of Hamilton397115646042
Regional Municipality of Durham362115416650
Regional Municipality of Waterloo408895159626
all other municipalities28285535752626
Total – Municipalities*1016405160057157
OPP – Province-wide42818251594020

Ontario Provincial Police Proposing New “Absolute Liability” Legislation

Update:

Former Chief of Police of Toronto (2000-2005), 66 year old Julian Fantino became Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (“OPP”) on October 30, 2006, when appointed by McGuinty’s Provincial Liberal Government.

The OPP Commissioner is seeking power to charge motorists, involved in motor vehicle accidents, who don’t slow down when weather conditions warrant it.  He is suggesting that when these accidents occur, it should be considered an “act of negligence” and that these motorists should be charged under the Highway Traffic Act and that these motorists, not their insurance companies, should have to pay for any damages related to those accidents.

He is proposing “absolute liability” legislation, under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, to hold irresponsible driver’s accountable.  Absolute liability would mean that all that the Prosecutor would have to establish in a Court  is that you did it (ie- had the accident in a snowstorm, or in a rainstorm or in a hailstorm) and you would be convicted. Absolute liability offences would arise where the legislature has made it clear that guilt would follow on mere proof of the prescribed act. It wouldn’t matter what your explanation was, if it happened and it can be proven in court that it happened, you would stand convicted.  According to his plan, you wouldn’t be covered by insurance and would have to pay for any and all damages arising from the “accident” out of your own pocket.

Apparently the McGuinty Liberals aren’t as enthusiastic about Fantino’s legislation proposals as he is.  As most of us already know, it is difficult to legislate common sense.

Hoping that everyone has a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year (2009). Fightyourtickets.ca would like to thank everyone who has supported this website and asks for your ongoing support in the New Year.

Update: August 15, 2010 – Julian Fantino retires after 42 years of working in law enforcement .

Update: October 12, 2010 – Julian Fantino decides to run as Conservative MP for Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the City of Vaughan in a by-election on November 29, 2010.

Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty appointed Julian Fantino as the Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). Dalton McGuinty also supported Stephen Harper, by introducing the Hated Sales Tax (HST) at the request of Stephen Harper. One of Dalton McGuinty’s Ministers, George Smitherman, stepped down from Queen’s Park and decided to run as the Mayor of Toronto. George Smitherman has received full support from Tories and former Mike Harris representatives in his bid to run for Mayor of Toronto. Even all of this will not help him beat Ford.

City of Toronto Considering Installing “Rumble Strips”

Update:

The City of Toronto is planning on developing a bike path on both the north and south sides of Lawrence Avenue East from Victoria Park Avenue, east to Rouge Hills Drive on the Pickering border. This road construction, to install the these extensive bike paths, would commence in 2009 and would continue through to 2010, until the construction is completed.

In order to safely segregate motor vehicles from bicycles, that will use the newly designed bike path, the City of Toronto has decided to look at various safety options, including “noise strips” or “rumble strips”. Rumble strips are created when grooves are cut into the pavement and create a staccato noise when motor vehicles drive on that stretch of road. These “rumble strips” have traditionally been utilized on major highways and expressways and remind a driver, when they drive on these rumble strips that they are driving on the shoulder of the highway or expressway. This normally wakes up motorists who begin to fall asleep and begin to veer off the highway.

City Councillor Adrian Heaps, Chairperson of the Toronto Cycling Committee stated “We’re looking at some kind of demarcation that is safe for cars and safe for bikes”.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season and a wonderful “2009” New Year. Drive safely.

Source: news

April 18, 2010 – Bikes over Motor Vehicles

April 23, 2010 – Bike messenger receives a $325.00 ticket when she travels through a red light on her bike.

Will New Quebec Winter Tire Law Soon be Rolling into Ontario?

Update:

Tire in the snow

There is now a law that requires mandatory winter tires on motor vehicles in Quebec during a three (3) month period (December 15 to March 15 inclusive):

Section 440.1 of the Quebec Highway Safety Code was passed September 17, 2008 and it provides that:

“Between 15 December to 15 March, the owner of a taxi or passenger vehicle registered in Québec may not put the vehicle into operation unless it is equipped with tires specifically designed for winter driving, in compliance with the standards prescribed by government regulation. The prohibition also applies to any person renting out passenger vehicles not equipped with that type of tires. (…)”

It is important to remember that tires specifically designed for winter driving constitute a safe solution for driving in winter. They are designed to provide maximum grip on snow and ice covered surfaces.

How many winter tires must be used?

All the tires on the vehicle must be tires specifically designed for winter driving.

Are vehicles from outside of Québec affected by this measure?

No, with the exception of certain rental vehicles. The legislative provision applies to vehicles (taxis and passenger vehicles) registered in Québec, as well as to passenger vehicles that are rented in Québec (regardless of where they are registered).

Are demerit points deducted for such offences?

No.

What is the consequence of not having installed winter tires on your motor vehicle between the period of December 15 and March 15 of the following year?

There are fines that range from $200 to $300.

How many vehicles will this mandatory measure (winter tires) affect?

This measure applies to all passenger vehicles and taxis registered in Québec, as well as all passenger vehicles rented in Québec. Depending on the number of vehicles registered, it can be estimated that approximately 4.5 million vehicles will be affected by this measure. According to our data, 90% of passenger vehicles already have winter tires.

However, it is important to note that the definition of passenger vehicle specified in the Regulation respecting road vehicle registration differs from that specified in the HSC. The latter stipulates that a passenger vehicle is a “motor vehicle designed for the transportation of not more than nine occupants at a time, where such transportation does not require a permit from the Commission des transports du Québec.” It is therefore very difficult to assess with precision the number of vehicles effected. This is all the more true given that some vehicles that are rented in Québec may be registered outside of Québec.

In which cases does the mandatory requirement to equip vehicles with tires specifically designed for winter driving not apply?

Winter tires are not mandatory for:

1. the emergency tires on taxis or passenger vehicles;
2. motorcycles used as emergency vehicles within the meaning of section 4 of the Highway
Safety Code;
3. passenger vehicles or taxis at the time of purchase from a vehicle retailer and for a period of
seven days from the date of acquisition (the driver must keep the sales contract for the
vehicle or a copy of the latter handy);
4. passenger vehicles with temporary registration plates (X plate) delivered in accordance with
the Regulation respecting road vehicle registration;
5. passenger vehicles with a temporary registration certificate (transit) delivered in accordance
with the Regulation respecting road vehicle registration for the validity period indicated on the
certificate, not exceeding a period of seven days from the date of issue of this certificate;
6. motor homes, or vehicles that have been permanently outfitted as dwellings;
7. passenger vehicles and taxis for which the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec
(SAAQ) has issued certificates (see question 7).

From December 15 to March 15, ALL tires mounted on a TAXI or PASSENGER VEHICLE must be specifically designed for winter driving.

Studded tires are not covered by the Regulation Governing the Use of Tires Specifically Designed for Winter Driving, and they are still permitted from October 15 to May 1.

Tires approved under the Regulation:

The Regulation introduced by the government followed the Transport Minister’s consultations with several groups, including the Association des marchands de pneus du Québec, representatives of the Ministry of Transport itself, CAA-Quebec, certain tire merchants associations, etc. These specialists made recommendations, most of which were adopted by the government.

The snowflake icon is used as a reference for enforcement of the Act because it supposedly denotes that the adherence of the tire bearing that icon is 110% superior to that of a benchmark all-season tire. However, that standard, established by Transport Canada in 1999, should be modified in the near future to ensure the safety of Canadians on our roads, because it is obsolete. Upgrading the standard will surely eliminate several tires on which manufacturers have affixed the symbol without their adherence having been proved. By 2009, these standards will be re-evaluated by the Standards Council of Canada with a view to rendering use of the logo consistent.

Since the goal of the Regulation is to improve road safety, it goes without saying that tires that do not meet these criteria should not be used for winter driving. When the temperature drops below 7°C, all-season tires start to lose their elasticity, which results in poorer traction, handling and braking capacity. Winter tires, on the other hand, retain their elasticity at temperatures far below 7°C. Lastly, it must not be forgotten that modern vehicles are equipped with safety features (ABS, electronic stability control, traction control, and so forth), which work properly only if the vehicle is equipped with tires providing the proper adherence.

Section 7 of the Regulation defines which tires will be acceptable as tires specifically designed for winter driving:

BEFORE DECEMBER 15, 2014

Tires on which one of the following inscriptions appears:

Alaska | Arctic | A/T or AT | Blizzard | Ice | LT | Nordic

Snow (but not Mud & Snow) | Stud | Ultratraction | Winter

OR

Tires on which the mountain and snowflake icon appears.

AS OF DECEMBER 15, 2014

Tires on which the mountain and snowflake icon appears.

Transport Québec : Regulation Governing the Use of Tires Specifically Designed for Winter Driving.

There is talk that the Ontario Government is considering similar legislation in Ontario. How long will this take to be implemented in Ontario?

For more information see Transport Quebec

Update: December 27, 2009 – In Calgary the fine for delaying traffic with non-winter tires is about $70, plus demerit points on the driver’s licence. There is one Calgary alderman proposing a German-style traffic law for those who refuse to don winter treads on their vehicles. This issue will be decided in 2010.

Update: December 15, 2010 – Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty rejects the idea of making Snow Tires Mandatory in Ontario.

Oshawa demonstrates Warmth and Compassion leading up to Christmas

Update:

The City of Oshawa, about 60 kilometres east of Toronto’s Old City Hall, with approximately 165,000 residents has shown warmth and compassion leading up to Christmas.

To put this in perspective, it is best to provide some background on this story and City:

Oshawa has not had the best year, given that its largest employer, General Motors (the car and truck assembly plant in south Oshawa) has fell on hard times, with the GM workers asking themselves whether they will have a job to return to in 2009.

The City of Oshawa has seen better times.  Oshawa’s mayor, John Gray, wanted to see Oshawa’s harbour developed with the assistance of the Federal Government.  In response, in September 2007 the Federal Government appointed David Crombie (who some might remember the media calling “Toronto’s tiny perfect mayor” when he was elected mayor of Toronto in 1972, 1974 & 1976) to prepare a report on the future of Oshawa’s harbour. David Crombie concluded his work in February 2008 and submitted his report to the Federal Government.  The City of Oshawa wanted to see the report, but the Federal Government was reluctant to share it.  The Mayor of Oshawa even had to go to the extent of requesting it through the Privacy Act. Crombie’s report was finally released on September 2, 2008. Crombie’s main nine (9) recommendations coincided with the City of Oshawa’s vision, with respect to the harbour.  Unfortunately, Minority Leader PM Stepen Harper’s Conservatives said “no” to the following:

1. No commitments to Crombie’s recommendations.

2. No to a timeframe for implementing Crombie’s recommendations.

3. No to any financial guarantees towards Oshawa’s Harbour.

This is surprising, given that Oshawa’s Member of Parliment is Conservative Jim Flaherty (also Canada’s Federal Minister of Finance). When the U.S. was discussing bailing out Detroit’s automakers, Jim Flaherty was not prepared to make any financial commitments to the automakers north of the border. Oshawa must have been surprised, given that it is a GM city and that its MP, Jim Flaherty seemed unconcerned about GM’s future and the future of Oshawa’s GM’s workers.

Oshawa has had its share of famous residents over the years:

Colonel Robert Samuel McLauglin, referred to as “Sam” – founder of the McLaughlin “Buick”

The Colonel’s brother, John T. McLaughlin – invented the Canada Dry Ginger Ale

Sandy Hawley – he was and is a famous jockey.

Dennis and Jerry McCrohan, members of the group “Steppenwolf”.  Both of these brothers, changed their surnames to Edmonton.  Dennis McCrohan changed his name to Dennis Edmonton and then to Mars Bonfire, when he wrote the song “Born to Be Wild” in 1968.  The lyrics of his song  reveals the fact that he was born in a Motor City:

Get your motor running

Head out on the Highway

Looking for adventure

In whatever comes our way

Despite having an uncertain future and no help from the Federal Government’s Conservative Party, led by minority Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Oshawa’s City Council started a “Toys for Tickets” pilot project in 2007.  The City of Kingston had been doing this for years and Oshawa decided to give it a shot.  The idea was simple.  Motorists that would have to pay for parking tickets received during a  specific period of time, could, instead of paying the ticket, present a toy that was equal to or exceeded the amount of their ticket (normally between $10 and $75). In 2007 the City received $1000 worth of Toys when this campaign was launched.

In 2008 the City of Oshawa decided to implement this “Toys for Tickets” despite the potential loss of three thousand dollar ($ 3000.00) loss in revenue.  The City decided that any ticket (with the exception of some tickets – disabled parking violations, etc.) issued between December 1 to 11, 2008 inclusive, with a fine of $10 to $75, could be paid off with a toy that was equal to or exceeded the fine amount associated with that parking violation.  On December 10 & 11, 2008 those with tickets were presented with this option of providing a toy for the value of their ticket. The City did well and ended up collecting toys and other gifts worth three thousand dollars ($ 3000.00).  This toys and other gifts will now be collected by those volunteering in Durham Regional Police Service’s annual food and toy drive and provided to those families in need.  The City of Oshawa has now decided to implement this campaign every year, based on the prior successes.

Oshawa has shown compassionate leadership during this economic recession. How many other cities will follow this positive example and implement their own “Toys for Tickets” campaigns?  It would certainly benefit the families and children living in other cities and would add to the Christmas experience for those in need.

See Oshawa: map

Source: news

Update: April 9/09 – Oshawa to receive 9.2 million in funding for harbour clean-up.