City of Ottawa employees who are captured by radar cameras in City vehicles and who have received tickets do not have to pay these fines under City policy.
However, the city insists employees can and should face further disciplinary action if caught speeding or running a red light.
A Freedom of Information request from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) revealed that 989 photo radar and red light camera tickets were issued for City of Ottawa vehicles between January 2019 and August 2021 .
The figure was confirmed by the city in a statement to CTV News Ottawa.
“City vehicles accounted for less than one percent of total tickets issued for red-light camera (RLC) and automatic speed enforcement (ASE) violations from 2019 to September 27, 2021,” said city attorney David White.
Data provided by the city showed 225,512 tickets from red light cameras and photo radar, 989 of which were for city-owned vehicles.
Documents obtained by the CTF show a large number of emergency vehicles, which the city says are exempt under Section 128 of the Traffic Lawsbut discovered that 159 other vehicles in the city’s fleet had been ticketed, facing $37,000 in fines.
White said the city, as the owner of the vehicles, is responsible for any fines incurred.
“Charges brought under the red light camera and/or photo radar provisions of the Traffic Laws (HTA) are owner liability offenses so the City of Ottawa, as the owner of the vehicle, is legally responsible for paying the fine. Therefore, the City does not require drivers to pay these fines, which is also consistent with the provisions of the Employment Standards Act bans on wage deductions,” he said. “Instead, the City is treating red light camera and/or photo radar violations as disciplinary matters, in accordance with the relevant collective agreement or employment contract and its disciplinary policy.”
White noted that employees who commit HTA offenses are subject to disciplinary action, “the extent of which will necessarily depend on the nature and severity of the misconduct, their length of service and any disciplinary history.”
CTF DISAPPOINTED BY CITY POLITICS
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says it is highlighting the situation in Ottawa because it is creating a double standard.
“It’s disappointing to see this because it shows that we have a two-tier system where some drivers have to pay, but city employees can pass the fine on to ratepayers,” the CTF director said in Ontario, Jay Goldberg, in a telephone interview with CTVNewsOttawa.ca.
Goldberg said the City of Edmonton requires its employees to pay traffic fines when using city vehicles, and the City of Toronto pays but recovers the costs from employees later. Goldberg said the City of Ottawa should make its employees pay their own tickets.
“We have to have a standard for everyone,” he said. “Everyone should be held accountable in the same way.”
He added that city employees are already paid by municipal taxes, which means that if they do not pay the fines themselves, it creates an additional cost for local taxpayers.
“We’re already paying for them to be at work and now we’re paying extra for them to break the law,” Goldberg said. “If the city doesn’t want to enforce fines the same way, they should remove photo radar because it shows it’s not about safety but about revenue.”
The City of Ottawa launched the Automated Speed Enforcement Program in July 2020. Between July 2020 and July 2021, 101,778 speeding tickets were issued at eight locations in Ottawa, generating $5.4 million in revenue of dollars.
The money generated by the photo radars supports Ottawa’s road safety action plan.
THE CITY HAS A NEW “DEMERIT” POLICY FOR DRIVERS
White noted that as of April 1, the city now has its own “demerit point” system for employed drivers.
“A new fleet safety program was launched on April 1, 2022, under which drivers of City of Ottawa vehicles receive Authorized To Operate (ATO). As part of risk management, the City awards ATO points (similar to provincial demerit points) based on unsafe actions, conditions or avoidable collisions, including violations resulting from excessive speed and from failing to obey a stop sign, resulting in risk mitigation measures up to and including the suspension of a driver’s ATO,” he explained.