TORONTO—Speeding scofflaws in Ontario will soon be feeling extra pressure to pay outstanding fines, as the province gives municipalities the power to deny them licence plates.
Under changes the Liberal government is set to enact in May, people who have not paid fines for driving-based offences, such as speeding and careless driving, won’t be able to get or renew their plates.
The current plate denial regime only applies to vehicle-based offences, such as parking tickets and red-light camera fines.
Municipalities in the province are owed a collective $1.4 billion in unpaid fines for provincial offences, including those under the Highway Traffic Act. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario has been asking the government for more than a decade for more tools to collect that money.
Some of those fines date back 50 years and couldn’t be feasibly collected, so the government is making the policy retroactive seven years.
About one-third of the defaulted fines are from the past seven years. Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca acknowledged that even with the changes, municipalities won’t be able to collect all of the approximately $500 million, but it sends a strong message to people with outstanding fines.
“If they’ve managed to navigate the system to their benefit up until this point in time, it’s that much harder now for them to do it,” he said. “With any system that government puts in place there will always be those who will find creative ways to avoid playing by the rules, I suppose, but this is another opportunity for us to be able to get those fines collected and make sure people get a clear message that they can’t continue to act in this way.”
Municipalities had been hoping the change would apply farther back than seven years, but are now just anxious to collect more of the outstanding fines, said Lynn Dollin, president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
“If those fines aren’t paid, it’s you and I covering those administration costs out of our property taxes, so we want to make sure that we’re getting the full bang for the buck and everything that we’re entitled to is coming to us,” she said.
People with unpaid speeding tickets are already subject to licence suspension, but plate denial will be an added motivator to pay those fines, said Del Duca.
“A person might be theoretically out there driving with an expired or suspended licence, therefore they’re not going forward to get it renewed, but you have the visual sticker on your licence plate, you have all that stuff that is easier for law enforcement to recognize at a glance,” he said.
The change is one of the last to be enacted under the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act that passed in 2015. The legislation also increased fines for distracted driving and “dooring” cyclists and introduced new penalties for drug-impaired driving. The regulation — which would not apply to jointly owned vehicles or those registered to a company — is posted for a mandatory public comment period, which ends Monday.
Ontario is lowering the maximum total cost of borrowing for a payday loan from $21 to $18 per $100 borrowed as of January 1, 2017.
Payday loans are a commonly used financial service in Ontario, and this change will ensure consumers are better protected and able to benefit from lower costs for each loan.
Ontario has also introduced legislation to strengthen protections for consumers who use financial services such as payday loans, instalment loans, rent-to-own services and cheque-cashing services, as well as for consumers who have debts in collection.
Ontario is reminding consumers that, as of January 1, 2017, new requirements are in place for tow truck or vehicle storage services designed to increase transparency and strengthen consumer protection.
The province is also taking action to improve the safety of tow trucks and their operators by including tow trucks in the province’s existing Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration system as of January 1, 2017. This change will improve road safety through government monitoring and enforcement measures.
Back in 2011, Air Miles announced an expiry policy. They announced that accumulated points would begin to expire on a quarterly basis.
This forced many consumers with Air Miles to start using them, rather than risk losing them. Using them in many instances meant redeeming them for things that card holders didn’t necessarily want.
Bill 47 will ensure that Air Miles points that expired after October 1, 2016 will be returned to the consumer.
“The government will consult with the public and business to develop regulations aimed at protecting consumers’ points while maintaining the viability of rewards programs,” Marie-France Lalonde, Minister of Government and Consumer Services, writes in a statement.
Last week, Air Miles announced that it was backing away from an expiration policy that would have come into effect in January.
See the legislation referred to as “Bill 47, Protecting Rewards Points Act (Consumer Protection Amendment), 2016″:
Bill 47 2016
An Act to amend the Consumer Protection Act, 2002 with respect to rewards points
Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as follows:
(1) Section 1 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2002 is amended by striking out the definition of “consumer agreement” and substituting the following:
“consumer agreement” means an agreement between a supplier and a consumer in which,
(a) the supplier agrees to supply goods or services for payment, or
(b) the supplier agrees to provide rewards points to the consumer, on the supplier’s own behalf or on behalf of another supplier, when the consumer purchases goods or services or otherwise acts in a manner specified in the agreement; (“convention de consommation”)
(2) Section 1 of the Act is amended by adding the following definition:
“rewards points” means, subject to the regulations, points provided to a consumer under a consumer agreement that can be exchanged for money, goods or services; (“points de récompense”)
(3) Section 1 of the Act is amended by striking out the definition of “supplier” and substituting the following:
“supplier” means a person who is in the business of selling, leasing or trading in goods or services or is otherwise in the business of supplying goods or services, including the supply of rewards points, and includes an agent of the supplier and a person who holds themself out to be a supplier or an agent of the supplier; (“fournisseur”)
(1) Part IV of the Act is amended by adding the following section:
No expiry of rewards points
47.1 (1) Subject to the other provisions of this section, no supplier shall enter into or amend a consumer agreement under which rewards points are provided to provide for the expiry of rewards points due to the passage of time alone.
Application and transition
(2) This section applies to all consumer agreements under which rewards points are provided,
(a) that existed on October 1, 2016;
(b) that were entered into after October 1, 2016, but before the day this section came into force; or
(c) that are entered into on or after the date this section comes into force.
Effect of termination
(3) Subject to any prescribed exceptions, on and after the day this section comes into force, and upon providing notice to the other party, the supplier or the consumer may terminate the consumer agreement under which rewards points are provided, and if the consumer agreement so provided, the consumer’s accumulated rewards points may expire.
Term of consumer agreement not enforceable
(4) Any provision or part of a provision of a consumer agreement that contravenes this section or that fails to comply with the regulations with respect to rewards points is not enforceable, but such unenforceability shall not invalidate the remaining provisions in the consumer agreement.
Retroactive effect on expiry of rewards points
(5) Subject to any prescribed exceptions, within 15 days of this section coming into force, a supplier shall credit back to a consumer any rewards points that expired on or after October 1, 2016 and before the day this section comes into force.
Transition: crediting back, supplier termination of consumer agreement
(6) If a supplier terminated a consumer agreement under which rewards points were provided on or after October 1, 2016 and before the date this section came into force, the previously terminated agreement shall be deemed to not have been terminated and the supplier shall, within 15 days of this section coming into force, credit back to the consumer all rewards points that expired upon that termination.
No cause of action for retroactivity
(7) No cause of action arises against the Crown as a direct or indirect result of the retroactive application of this section or any regulations respecting rewards points, and no costs, compensation or damages are owing or payable by the Crown to any supplier, consumer or person as a result of such retroactive application.
(8) In any proceeding under this Act about the crediting back of rewards points mentioned in subsection (5) or (6), despite any contractual provision to the contrary, a court or tribunal may consider records presented by the consumer, determine those records’ admissibility and may give those records whatever weight it sees fit.
Other expiry allowed
(9) Consumer agreements under which rewards points are provided may provide for expiry due to reasons other than the passage of time alone, subject to any limits that may be prescribed.
No retroactive offences
(10) Nothing in this section creates a retroactive offence.
(2) Subsections 47.1 (5), (6) and (8) of the Act, as enacted by subsection (1), are repealed.
(1) Subsection 123 (1) of the Act is amended by adding the following clause:
(k) clarifying the definition of “rewards points” in section 1 and specifying things that do or do not constitute rewards points for the purposes of this Act.
(2) Subsection 123 (5) of the Act is amended by adding the following clauses:
(j) governing the transfer of rewards points among consumers, including upon death;
(k) governing the inactivity of consumer agreements under which rewards points are provided and of the rewards points themselves;
(l) governing the termination of consumer agreements under which rewards points are provided and of the rewards points themselves;
(m) governing the application of section 47.1 with respect to rewards points and, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, providing for and prescribing anything that that section refers to as being prescribed or provided for in the regulations and governing transitional matters.
This Act comes into force on a day to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor.
The short title of this Act is the Protecting Rewards Points Act (Consumer Protection Amendment), 2016.
This Explanatory Note was written as a reader’s aid to Bill 47 and does not form part of the law. Bill 47 has been enacted as Chapter 34 of the Statutes of Ontario, 2016.
The Bill amends the Consumer Protection Act, 2002 with respect to rewards points.
The definition of “consumer agreement” is amended to include agreements under which a supplier agrees to provide rewards points to a consumer. The definition of “supplier” is amended to include a person who supplies rewards points.
The new section 47.1 prohibits suppliers from entering into or amending consumer agreements to provide for the expiry of rewards points due to the passage of time alone. Rewards points may expire if a consumer agreement under which rewards points are provided is terminated by the supplier or the consumer and the consumer agreement provides for the expiry of the points. Transitional and other related matters are provided for.
There is a serious problem that needs to be addressed,’ working group chair says.
Larger law firms would be expected to work toward racial diversification and have to report on their progress under recommendations approved without opposition Friday by the profession’s regulatory body in Ontario following hours of emotional debate.
In addition, the Law Society of Upper Canada will look to put measures in place to ensure legal workplaces do more to combat systemic racism and discrimination in their ranks, its governing body decided.
The recommendations — 13 in all — flowed from a working group that looked at the career obstacles black and other visible minority lawyers face. The group, set up in 2012, spent the last few years coming up with its report based on consultations and submissions from around the province.
Raj Anand, co-chairman of the group, who said he’s been the subject of racial slurs, called it gratifying the law society approved the report.
‘A serious problem that needs to be addressed’
“There is a serious problem that needs to be addressed,” Anand said.
“We now can move forward to implement these important recommendations, which reinforce the special responsibility of lawyers and paralegals to promote human rights in their own workplaces — and in their relationships with the justice system and the public.”
Under measures that are now slated to be put in place, any firm with at least 10 lawyers and paralegals would have to designate someone responsible for implementing a policy that addresses issues such as fair recruitment, retention and advancement.
Companies would also have to do a diversity self-assessment, and send the information to the law society every two years.
The governing body would also keep tabs on the progress law firms with at least 25 lawyers and paralegals are making in promoting diversity by looking at a “demographic data and inclusion index.”
Visible-minority lawyers argue professional barriers linger
One lawyer, Sid Troister, sparked passionate discussion by questioning whether one measure should be mandatory as recommended. He called for a separate vote on each recommendation rather than a vote on the package as a whole. His motion was easily voted down and the report then passed with one amendment.
Although the proportion of visible-minority lawyers has increased in the last 15 years, many of them have long complained of the professional barriers they encounter, and relatively few black lawyers practise in large firms.
The working group, struck in response to the complaints, found a culture in which racialized lawyers and paralegals face significant challenges throughout their legal careers. Problems include assumptions of incompetence from judges and clients, denial of opportunities for professional advancement, and colleagues who shut them out of workplace social gatherings.
‘Overt discrimination and bias’
“Overt discrimination and bias are a feature of daily life,” the group found. “Racialization is a constant and persistent factor.”
Another recommendation is to make it explicit that any systemic discrimination or reprisal for complaints of discrimination and harassment would be considered breaches of professional conduct, which would spell out that members are obliged to promote principles of equality, diversity and inclusion.
The law society, which governs more than 50,000 lawyers and 8,000 paralegals in Ontario, would also set up a specialized and trained team to address complaints of discrimination.
Paul Schabas, the treasurer of the law society, called Friday’s adoption of the report and its recommendations a big step toward ensuring the legal profession is “diverse, inclusive and free of discrimination and harassment.”