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New rules making it easier for Sarnia to collect unpaid fines

Published on

Cathy Dobson

If you haven’t bothered to pay that old speeding ticket or building permit fee, be forewarned.

Starting May 1, anyone who defaults on a provincial offence or municipal bylaw fines won’t be able to renew their vehicle licence plate until it’s paid.

“We have been in favour of this and are happy to see it,” said Alan Shaw, Sarnia’s director of planning, building and bylaw enforcement.

Everything from parking tickets to animal control and property offences are handled by his enforcement officers.

“I think people are going to pay their fees more often because they need their drivers’ licence,” Shaw said.

“Cities across Ontario have asked for better ways to collect fines, and this is what the province is doing.”

Shaw estimates 20% to 30% of all fines in Sarnia currently don’t get paid. Though statistics aren’t readily available, it represents a large chunk of change the municipality could be using to provide services or reduce taxes.

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca has said about $500 million is owed to Ontario cities in unpaid fines. Denying plate renewal for provincial offences fines should help recoup some of that.

In the past, the collection tool only covered parking tickets. People with unpaid parking fines who showed up to renew their licence had to pay the parking fine in addition to the plate sticker renewal fee.

The same process will now be extended to a wide range of unpaid fines including speeding or careless driving; allowing dogs to run at large; infringements related to the Environmental Protection Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act; the Dog Owners’ Liability Act and the Trespass to Property Act.

Drivers who speed and don’t pay the fine already have their licence suspended. But being denied the renewal sticker will also provide police with a visual means of stopping them.

It’s been 10 years since the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) began asking for better ways to improve collection rates.

“The problem has been that we end up chasing people who don’t pay their fines and, ultimately, it goes to a collection agency,” said Shaw.

“We also spend a fair bit of money going to court because staff has to prepare for it and then loses a day in court. If the outcome is that someone has to pay a $150 fine, for instance, that doesn’t come close to covering our costs.

“And those costs have to be covered by the taxpayer,” he said.

The Ministry of the Attorney General has also made changes to allow municipal governments to recoup the costs of using collection agencies to obtain defaulted fines.











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