Ontario is to crack down on motorists who have unpaid fines by refusing to renew their licence plates.
Ontario’s scofflaw drivers with outstanding fines dating as far back as seven years could soon see their licence plate renewals denied.
The Liberal government’s proposed legislation (Bill 34 – Highway Traffic Statute Law Amendment Act, 2013) that was introduced today, presents a windfall for municipalities that are owed hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid fines by motoring scofflaws.
It would deny licence plates to drivers with outstanding tickets for speeding, improper lane changes, illegal turns, driving with no insurance and careless driving, and make it easier for municipalities to charge out-of-province drivers who run red lights and fail to stop for school buses.
“This new legislation, if passed, will (make) those who break the rules of the road responsible for their actions,” Transportation Minister Glen Murray said Monday in Ottawa.
Currently, licence plate renewals can be denied for:
- Unpaid parking tickets.
- Outstanding Highway 407 tolls.
- Issuing an NSF cheque for licence plate-related fees.
- Unpaid red light camera tickets.
According to the transportation ministry, unpaid Highway Traffic Act fines and fines for failing to have insurance — totalling an estimated $669 million — represents about 70 per cent of the total amount of unpaid fines owed to municipalities.
Fines owed to municipalities are increasing by an average of approximately $100 million a year, the ministry stated.
The administration of the Provincial Offences Act was turned over to municipalities more than 15 years ago by Mike Harris’s Tory government but it lacked any real enforcement for collecting fines.
“Hopefully this (proposed law) will motivate people not to sit on their fines and pay them,” Pat Vanini, executive director of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, told the Star.
“Let’s get on with it.”
In 2011, the Ontario Association of Police Service Boards produced a 26-page white paper on the problem of unpaid fines at the request of the government. It concluded the province was owed $1 billion in unpaid fines for a host of offences, not just traffic tickets.
According to the white paper, in 2009 alone Toronto was owed $36 million — part of $100 million in province-wide fines in default that year. It noted that was enough to cover the projected shortfall in the 2012 TTC budget.
Fred Kaustinen, executive director of the OAPSB, said Monday “I am glad to see it is going back seven years because most of the . . . outstanding fines are in the last decade.”
Tory MPP Frank Klees (Newmarket—Aurora) said there is no excuse for motorists not paying their fines, but added there has to be more pressing issues for Premier Kathleen Wynne’s fledgling government.
Klees also said he fears that because the transportation ministry’s data system is so inadequate that innocent people are going to get caught up in this crackdown.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she is “actually glad to see the government moving on this because it has been an ongoing issue for cities.”