A new system for challenging parking tickets that comes into effect on Monday could hit drivers in the pocket book and needs to be challenged, says a former police officer who helps Winnipeggers fight traffic tickets.
Right now, drivers who want to challenge a parking ticket go to court at the provincial Highway Traffic Matters building at 373 Broadway to plead their case.
If the presiding judicial justice of the peace agrees with the gripe, the wrongly ticketed driver is let off the hook; if the justice of the peace disagrees, the driver must pay the ticket at the Winnipeg Parking Authority building at 495 Portage Ave.
Starting Monday, Winnipeggers who want to fight a parking ticket will no longer deal directly with a provincial JJP.
Instead, drivers will have to see a city traffic screening officer at the parking authority building, who will decide whether there's any weight to the complaint and either reduce the penalty or quash it altogether. If the city official decides the parking ticket was warranted after all, the driver can then appeal to a provincially appointed adjudicator for a fee of $25, which will be waived if the adjudicator ends up siding with the driver, city officials said.
"Who is going to pay the $25, honestly, to fight a $50 or a $150 ticket? - Len Eastoe, Traffic Ticket Experts
"That's laughable," said Len Eastoe, a former police officer with Traffic Ticket Experts. "It's costing you $25 to taking it to some form of court, if you want to call it that, [but] it's not."
Drivers will also be able to go through the city's initial screening process online, said Colin Stewart, policy analyst with the Winnipeg Parking Authority,
Ontario and British Columbia have similar frameworks already in place, Stewart said. Legislation drafted by the City of Winnipeg will provide local screening officers with "as much or in some cases more discretion" to reduce or cancel penalties as in other jurisdictions.
While the changes could result in a more streamlined process from the point of view of the province or the city, the result also could be less impartial, Eastoe said.
"It'll totally streamline it for the city, because everybody will be so frustrated with it all," Eastoe said. "Who is going to pay the $25, honestly, to fight … a $50 or a $150 ticket?"
Three screening officers have been hired already, and they've been put through a significant amount of training, Stewart said.
"They've got to know every bylaw that is involved, back to front. They spend time out on the street with our officers understanding how these tickets are issued and what goes into the issuance of a ticket so they can understand the whole process … even reviewing court decisions to see how tickets were issued, what circumstances affect the people," Stewart said.
Eastoe doubts the new system will work in favour of drivers. He believes taking the province out of the initial process will hurt objectivity and give the city more power to make judgments on tickets it handed out in the first place.
"[The province is] saying all the other people going and challenging their parking tickets, it's all frivolous stuff and they don't want to tie up courts with this anymore, so they're going to make people pay to go to court," he said. "That should never be happening by legislation or not. Someone should challenge that."
City 'didn't have a choice'
The province enacted the Municipal Bylaw Enforcement Act in 2013 to provide a new way for municipalities to deal with bylaw offences, including cases of illegal parking.
"Part of that act requires any municipality or city who issues parking offence notices to deal with them under this act. We didn't really have a choice," Stewart said.
The change has been imposed on the city by the province because, Eastoe believes, the justice department doesn't want to devote resources to a system that helps Winnipeggers fight parking tickets.
"What's your next level? Now you've got to pay $25 to go to, what, another person who works for the city that they call independent? Maybe, but isn't that supposed to be a judge? Isn't that somebody who is totally impartial, who is hired by the province and not by the city? Maybe this person will be, I don't know."