Winnipeg drivers who paid tickets they received under residential snow clearing parking bans want their fines refunded.

Last Friday, the city acknowledged it had issued thousands of parking tickets that did not comply with Manitoba's Highway Traffic Act. The about-face came after an appeal court case involving ticket-fighter Todd Dube was dropped.

The city chose not to continue pursuing legal action against Dube after it realized its bylaw on tickets issued during the residential parking ban did not warn drivers with proper signage.

City COO Michael Jack told reporters anyone who hadn't paid their fines yet would not have to, but the city would not offer refunds to those who did pay for their tickets.

City frustrates motorist

Terra Fleger got a ticket two years ago in December after she parked on Vernon Street in St. James during a residential snow clearing ban. She paid the ticket, but now she's heard the ticket was invalid.

"It's incredibly frustrating. A lot of choice words come to mind. You know, they are the City of Winnipeg. They are supposed to know what the laws are. They are supposed to be in compliance and then to say, 'We made a mistake, we didn't check the laws.' They are now invalid," Fleger said.

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A snow-clearing crew clears a street in Winnipeg's Fort Rouge neighbourhood in the winter of 2013. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Fleger said she understands the city has to plow the streets, but she isn't impressed with the city's incompetence on the tickets and feels she should get a refund.

"It's also more frustrating because if it's an outstanding parking ticket they are not going to continue collections, but because I paid my ticket and I didn't leave it outstanding, it's almost like I am being punished," she said.

Todd Dube said he would consider a class action lawsuit on behalf of people who didn't get a refund. Fleger said she would consider joining the suit.

City should do the 'honourable thing'

Lawyer Robert Zaparniuk represented Dube when he appealed his parking ticket. He said he hasn't looked closely at whether paying invalid tickets warrants compensation, but hopes the city would do the honourable thing and refund the fines. 

"They [drivers] thought they were pleading to valid legislation, and if it wasn't valid in the first place it seems to me it would be inappropriate for the city to collect and keep the fines that were paid by the innocent person who thought they broke the law and didn't," Zaparniuk said.

City response challenged

Dube's lawyer said the damage control the city attempted on Friday doesn't repair the legal mess. 

Zaparniuk said two separate sections of the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) give municipalities the authority to introduce parking restrictions on motorists and impose fines for non-compliance, however he believes Winnipeg's Know Your Zone residential parking ban falls short under both sections. 

Section 90(5) of the HTA states that the a municipality "shall cause every rule [...] to be indicated or made known to drivers by traffic control devices or by peace officer."

"There`s a mandatory provision that says if you`re imposing parking restrictions you must notify the motorists [through signage]," said Zaparniuk. 

In light of Dube's recent court challenge, the city has backtracked on its original 24-hour ticketing policy during a parking ban and says that it will now only issue tickets between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.— a position city officials say is valid based on Section 122(1) of the HTA. 

However, Zaparniuk rejects this assertion saying that although this second section would enable the city to enforce its residential parking ban without the presence of road signs, the city's by-law would have to spell out the time restrictions and the bans would have to be enforced uniformly rather than with changing area restrictions.

Section 6(2) of the city's Winter Parking Ban By-Law, states that the city can declare a parking ban "[...] in one or more of the snow clearing zones at a time or times and on a date or dates specified in the declaration", but does not explicitly state the 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. time frame.

"What the city is not doing, is they haven't read the second part of that same section that basically says, 'Provided the city has passed a bylaw that maintains that restriction,'" says Zaparniuk. "I've not been able to find that bylaw."