Ottawa

Quebec police accused of blitzing Chelsea parking lots for expired Ontario plates

MRC des Collines police: Ontarians aren't targeted, it's just lots of drivers don't renew on time

Posted: February 18, 2017

Toronto's Ben Lemire, learning that local police are patrolling a Cheslea, Que., parking lots, hastily affixes the validation sticker to his out-of-date licence plate. (Stu Mills/CBC)

The owner of a Chelsea, Que., ski hill says local police should ease up on ticketing cars belonging to his Ontario customers.

An example of an Ontario plate and the kind of stickers than go on them. (Service Ontario)

Peter Sudermann said police spend so much time patrolling his Camp Fortune parking lots that his ski school sends a checklist for new customers — and obeying the rules of the road is at the top.

"Number one, make sure your registration is paid for," Sudermann told CBC News. "Number two, dress warmly."

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Quebec license plates do not carry validation stickers. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Sudermann said the majority of the cars in Camp Fortune's parking lots are from Ontario, and he thinks the province's coloured and dated registration stickers make Ontarians an easy target for the MRC des Collines police.

"It maybe helps fill their quota by coming through our parking lots," he said. "We seem to be a direct target."

Quebec's fines more than triple Ontario's

The fine for an expired plate in Ontario is $140, but park an expired car in Chelsea (or anywhere in Quebec) and the fine soars to $481.

Sudermann said customers who discover their day on the slopes comes with an unwanted "welcome tax" often direct their anger first at his company.

"We get blamed," he said.

"It's to the point that we have visitors who have come to enjoy a day of skiing and who say they'll never return to the region again because of what has happened in our parking lot."

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"It maybe helps fill their quota by coming through our parking lots," says Camp Fortune's Peter Sudermann, of ticketing blitzes at the Ski Hill. (Stu Mills/CBC)

MRC des Collines Police spokesperson Sgt. Martin Fournel told CBC News that they've stopped leaving the tickets on the windshields of cars with expired stickers because of that very response.

They now send the infraction by mail, Fournel said.

Targeting 'a lie'

At the nearby Nordik Spa-Nature, Ben Lemire hasn't taken any chances.

When the Toronto visitor learned local police frequently cruised the spa's expansive parking lots scanning for licence plate sticker violations, he pulled out a screwdriver.

He then removed the new Ontario licence plate validation paper from his glove box and quickly set to work applying the new sticker.

"It's really just not been attached because I've been too lazy to take my licence plate cover off," Lemire explained as he affixed the sticker.

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"It seems like they're just trying to create some revenue."

Hundreds of cars fill Chelsea's Nordik Spa-Nature parking lot, with the majority of them bearing Ontario license plates. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Fournel said that while MRC-des-Collines officers had issued 647 tickets to cars from outside Quebec last year, there were 1,029 tickets issued to Quebec drivers across the force's jurisdiction.

Fournel said the statistics didn't suggest a more aggressive ticketing of Ontarians, whose cars are much less numerous on MRC-patrolled roads than Quebec-plated cars.

"Whoever wants to say we're targeting more Ontarians, that's a lie," said Fournel, acknowledging that Ontario's coloured licence sticker system does make it easier for officers to spot lapsed plates.

"What it's showing us is lots of Ontarians don't pay for their plates," he said.

Fournel said officers have "good reason" to patrol those parking lots, citing more than 30 calls to police from Spa Nordik ranging from theft to sexual assault.

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Officers are expected to issue at least one ticket in an eight-hour shift, he added.

Meeting with mayors

Still, people like Ottawa's Joel Harden say the ticketing of Ontario cars looks like a cash-grab.

Harden was ticketed after his Ontario-plated car was parked at Spa Nordik with a sticker lapsed by three days.

He said he'll fight his ticket in court next week, where he plans to argue the $481 fine doesn't fit the offence.

"I'm certainly willing to pay a reasonable fine, but this is ridiculous," said Harden

"It's not that much of a danger to health and safety to have an expired sticker."

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"It's not that much of a danger to health and safety to have an expired sticker," says Joel Harden, who had an Ontario-plated car ticketed at Chelsea's Nordik Spa-Nature in December. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Harden met with the five mayors of the municipality on Thursday to discuss the infraction pricing.

"Quebec and Ontario have these reciprocal agreements. They should probably have reciprocal offences," he said.

He said while he could afford the ticket, he would fight it in court on the grounds it was an unfair burden for what he called an administrative cost.

"We're just asking the court system to comment on the unfairness of the severity of the fine and the implications for low income folks and for tourism," he said.