Update: see previous posts – February 19, 2014 Toronto: Police Provide Demands to City Over Enforcement of Parking Tickets’ 10-Minute Grace Period, February 16, 2014 Toronto: Police Ignore City Council’s Decision to Observe 10-Minute Grace Period for Overtime Parking, June 27, 2012 Parking Ticket Cancellation Guidelines: Increasing the 5 Minute Grace Period to 10 Minutes, July 1, 2010 Parking Ticket Cancellation Guidelines
Roughly 880,000 tickets dating back to 2002 have been withdrawn. But for companies with big ticket bills, “global resolution” has been taking care of that problem for years.
The City of Toronto quietly released a statement Sunday, in the midst of a holiday weekend, saying it had withdrawn roughly 880,000 parking tickets, a small portion of fines issued between 2002 and 2014 — citing limited court capacity and the difficulty of assuring citizens’ rights to a prompt trial.
The news no doubt will come as a relief for thousands of individual drivers — people not as fortunate as large companies, who have long taken advantage of a little-known settlement process called “global resolution.”
Jackie DeSouza, the city’s director of strategic communications, explained Sunday’s announcement as a matter of practicality. “After four, five, six, and, in some cases, 10 years, even if a trial was set, it wouldn’t be a reasonable amount of time under the Charter,” she said in an interview. “Most likely, those tickets would be wiped anyway if they did get to a court.”
The tickets, according to the city news release, totaled “an estimated $20 million in potential fine revenue,” but the cost for the city of proceeding with trials could have topped $23 million.
“It’s really a wash,” DeSouza said.
Some corporate repeat offenders, however, have long ducked parking tickets through other methods.
Companies that rack up large numbers of tickets can see some of their fines tossed out through “global resolution.” The process requires companies with fleet vehicles and a “significant” number of parking tickets to pay all fines incurred on rush hour routes, in fire routes and in disabled parking spaces, according to city spokesperson Wynna Brown.
The remaining tickets, Brown said in an email, are for parking in areas labelled no-stopping, no-standing and no-parking. City prosecutors and company representatives work to reach agreements that see some of these remaining tickets tossed out and others paid in full.
The process is seemingly at odds with a public campaign led by Mayor John Tory, who has pushed for a crackdown on drivers who flout the law and snarl traffic.
“People of Toronto want to get to work on time, they want to get home to their families on time; and that is what this policy is all about,” Tory said in January. “It’s enforcing the law so people can get around.”
A spokesperson for Tory said via email that the mayor cannot interfere with prosecutions under the Provincial Offences Act. The mayor’s office has not said if Tory knew about the resolution process while pledging to crack down on scofflaw drivers.
The rationale behind the global process is that, with valid defences available for no-parking, no-stopping and no-standing tickets, bulk resolution is an efficient use of limited court time and space.
“For a no-stopping offence, there is a possibility that someone may argue that they are not stopping, as they are only halting the vehicle to discharge passengers,” Brown said in an email.
Asked what percentage of tickets is typically withdrawn versus paid, Brown said the details of the settlements are confidential.
Companies could use other means to reduce individual tickets.
In October 2014, the company Iron Mountain received steep reductions on parking tickets in spite of a bylaw that says parking fines are fixed.
When Iron Mountain’s representative appeared in court on Oct. 17, 2014, a justice of the peace reduced all six of the company’s fines from $40 to $15, in exchange for Iron Mountain pleading guilty.
Monica Decock, legal representative for Iron Mountain, argued that day that “nowhere … on the ticket does it say ‘fixed fine.’ It says ‘set fine.’”
The justice of the peace apparently agreed.
“The customs in this court have been to lower fines,” JP Rhonda Roffey said. “But you should know that that will not always be the case. This will make its way through the courts, and most likely fines are going to be fixed.”
Reduced fines in exchange for guilty pleas were common for private citizens and corporations alike, according to Decock.
“You could have checked the whole docket for that day, and you would see that everyone got reduced [fines] in that courtroom,” Decock said an interview.
The city appealed one of Iron Mountain’s October fine reductions.
“A successful appeal by the City confirmed that a Justice of the Peace has no discretion and must apply the fixed fine on parking tickets,” Brown said in an email. The decision was issued in July.
Iron Mountain declined to comment for this story.
Drivers received nearly 2.5 million parking tickets in Toronto in 2014. Approximately 54 per cent of these were paid in 2014, according to a city report. Offenders sometimes pay tickets several years after receiving them, the report said. Some 21.2 per cent of the tickets were cancelled.
City guidelines state that tickets to delivery and courier companies for no-parking areas (outside of rush hour) and “park public lane” may be cancelled if the driver or a representative provides a letter or receipt with the delivery time, location and date.
David Turnbull, president and CEO of the Canadian Courier and Logistics Association, said some CCLA members use the global resolution process. Turnbull denied that the process, which is not available to individuals, is unfair, and said delivery companies provide essential services.
“Private citizens can go, as I do … into a parking garage and park legally,” Turnbull said. “Our vehicles … don’t fit into most of those garages. And, in any case, they’re absolutely jammed full,” Turnbull said.
Councillor Josh Matlow has a different take.
“I’d like to see these companies understand that they’re either going to be ticketed or towed if they believe that their work is more important than everybody else’s,” Matlow said. “By having this program in place, it sends the opposite message.”
Matlow said he had heard of “ad hoc circumstances” in which companies and the city reached settlements, but was not aware of the formal global resolution process.
“I intend to act on this in the fall … to bring forward the appropriate motion to reform this,” Matlow said.
Turnbull said he hopes as many CCLA members as possible use the global resolution process, which he believes is beneficial to both courier companies and the city.
“The city doesn’t want us to fight every single ticket,” Turnbull said. “Because we would win.”