City workers caught on photo radar get a free ride, taxpayer group says

“If they’re not making people who work for the city pay these fines, then is it a matter of public safety or is it a money grab?”

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City employees driving municipal vehicles dodged fines of $37,000 after being timed for speeding or running red lights by automated cameras, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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Through access to information, the federation discovered that 989 photo radar and red light camera tickets were distributed to City of Ottawa vehicles between January 2019 and August 2021. Many tickets cost $328 , but some cost as little as $76 or as high as $721.

When vehicles used by fire, police, transit and paramedics were reduced, at least 159 tickets were for other vehicles in the city’s fleet, Ontario Manager Jay Goldberg said.

Drivers arrested for speeding or running red lights included those driving municipal, library, sanitation and forestry vehicles.

Goldberg said the taxpayers’ federation decided to make the Freedom of Information request for Ottawa’s numbers after a CTV investigation into photo radar fines for City of Toronto employees in 2021. revealed that Toronto had distributed $85,000 in tickets the previous year to several of its own employees. .

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Toronto pays upfront and then tries to recover the cost from the worker.

“The City of Edmonton is demanding that individuals actually pay the fines because it’s the right thing to do,” Goldberg said.

“If they don’t make people who work for the city pay these fines, is it a matter of public safety or is it a money grab?”

City of Ottawa attorney David White says city vehicles accounted for less than 1% of total tickets issued for red light cameras and automated speed violations from 2019 to September 27, 2021 .

According to city figures, 42,578 red light camera tickets were issued in 2019, another 35,557 distributed in 2020 and 35,557 between January 1 and September 27, 2021.

A total of 50,220 automated speed enforcement tickets were issued in Ottawa in 2020, and 67,776 were issued between January 1 and September 27, 2021.

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“Charges under the red light camera and/or photo radar provisions of the Highway Traffic Act are owner liability offenses which result in the City of Ottawa, as the owner of the vehicle, is legally responsible for paying the fine,” White said in a statement.

The city does not require drivers to pay these fines, “which is also consistent with provisions of the Employment Standards Act that prohibit deductions from wages,” he said.

Violations are treated as disciplinary matters, in accordance with collective agreements or employment contracts and disciplinary policy.

“Employees who commit traffic violations are subject to disciplinary action, the extent of which will depend on the nature and severity of the misconduct, their seniority and any disciplinary history,” White said.

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Under a new fleet safety program introduced April 1, the city awards “permission to operate” points, similar to demerit points, as a way to manage risk. Points are based on unsafe actions, conditions or avoidable collisions, including violations resulting from speeding and failing to obey a stop sign. Actions taken may include suspending the driver’s authority to operate a vehicle.

In May 2018, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson tweeted that the city had invested more than $2 million during this term of council in improve road and intersection safety thanks to the addition of more than 50 red light cameras.

“These cameras generated close to $5.2 million in 2017 — I would say that’s a great return on investment! (return on investment),” Watson tweeted.

Last September, Watson announced that photo radar would be introduced in 15 additional school zones in Ottawa by the end of 2022 after a pilot program produced speed reductions in eight school zones across the city.

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But Watson also lamented the missed opportunities. In March, he said the city lost $1.1 million in revenue last year because tickets weren’t mailed within the required 23-day window.

“Ottawa seems to be one of the municipalities where it’s pretty clear that this is being used as a revenue tool,” Goldberg said.

If the city was really interested in public safety, it would post warning signs in front of areas where photo radars were deployed, he argued.

“In so many intersections, there’s not good information being disseminated,” Goldberg said. “The easiest way to say it’s public safety is to improve signage. And no way out for the people from the works department and the settlement agents.

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