Ottawa

Police board head asks province to loosen law, let civilians direct traffic

Ottawa city council may ask the province to change the Highway Traffic Act to allow civilians to direct traffic in construction zones and during parades.

Rule change could see bylaw officers, special constables directing traffic

Coun. Eli El-Chantiry wants the City of Ottawa to ask the province to alter the Highway Traffic Act to allow civilians to direct traffic at construction sites and during events. (CBC)

Ottawa city council may ask the province to change the Highway Traffic Act to allow civilians to direct traffic in construction zones and during parades.

Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, who also chairs the Ottawa Police Services Board, tabled a notice of motion to petition the province to change the rules. That means council will debate the issue at its next meeting.

We're trying to find a way to be more creative.- Coun. Eli El-Chantiry

Although construction companies pay police officers when they're required at road building sites, for example, they pass those costs on when they bill the city for municipal projects, El-Chantiry pointed out.

And for festivals and community events that are sometimes required to hire paid-duty officers, the cost is an additional burden.

"We're trying to find a way to be more creative," said El-Chantiry, who suggested municipal bylaw officers or special constables could be used to direct traffic or close some streets — but within limits.

'Not going to eliminate the police'

"You're not going to eliminate the police. I don't think that anybody can close the highway other than police or OPP."

Freeing up officers from construction supervision would allow them to concentrate on vital police work, El-
Chantiry said.

However the change would also cost the force, which charges an administrative fee when officers are hired for paid-duty. El-Chantiry estimated the potential loss at about $700,000 per year.

More than 1,000 employees of the Ottawa Police Service earned more than $100,000 in 2015, many of them constables clocking overtime when they're hired by private groups to control traffic.

Mayor Jim Watson said he's all for the idea and told reporters that he was also going to bring the issue up with local minister Yasir Naqvi. Other Ontario cities are also asking for these changes to the provincial rules, including Toronto.

The next council meeting is scheduled for May 11.

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