City of Ottawa employees who are caught on photo radar cameras in city vehicles and issued tickets do not have to pay those fines under a city policy.
However, the city insists employees can and do face other disciplinary measures if they’re caught speeding or running a red light.
An access to information request by the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation (CTF) found 989 photo radar and red light camera tickets were issued to 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 per cent of total tickets issued for Red Light Camera (RLC) and Automated Speed Enforcement (ASE) violations from 2019 to Sept 27, 2021,” City Solicitor David White said.
Data provided by the city showed 225,512 tickets from red-light and photo radar cameras, 989 of which involved city-owned vehicles.
The documents obtained by the CTF do show a large number of emergency vehicles, which the city notes are exempt under section 128 of the Highway Traffic Act, but found 159 other vehicles in the city fleet were ticketed, incurring $37,000 in fines.
White said the city, as the owner of the vehicles, is liable for any purposes that are incurred.
“Charges laid under the red-light camera and/or photo radar provisions of the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) are owner liability offences, with the result being that the City of Ottawa, as owner of the vehicle, is legally responsible for payment of the fine. As a result, the City does not require drivers to pay those purposes, which is also in keeping with the provisions of the Employment Standards Act prohibitions on deductions from wages,” he said. “Rather, the City addresses red light camera and/or photo radar speeding violations as disciplinary matters, in accordance with the relevant collective agreement or employment contract and its Discipline Policy.”
White noted that employees who commit HTA infractions are subject to discipline, “the extent of which will necessarily depend on the nature and seriousness of the misconduct, their length of service, and any prior disciplinary history.”
CTF DISAPPOINTED BY CITY POLICY
The Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation says it is highlighting the situation in Ottawa because it creates a double standard.
“It’s disappointing to see this because it shows we have a two-tiered system where some drivers have to pay, but city employees can pass on the fine to taxpayers,” said CTF Ontario Director Jay Goldberg in a phone interview with CTVNewsOttawa.ca.
Goldberg said that the city of Edmonton does require its employees to pay traffic ends when using city vehicles, and the city of Toronto pays up from but recovers the costs from employees later. Goldberg said the City of Ottawa should require its employees to pay their own traffic tickets.
“We need to have one standard for everyone,” he said. “Everyone needs to be held accountable in the same way.”
He added that city employees are already paid through municipal taxes, meaning if they aren’t paying fines themselves, it creates an extra cost for local taxpayers.
“We’re paying for them to be on the job already and now we’re paying extra for them to break the law,” Goldberg said. “If the city doesn’t want to pursue ends equally, it should scrap 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 tickets were issued for speeding at eight locations across Ottawa, netting $5.4 million in revenue.
Money generated by the photo radar cameras supports Ottawa’s road safety action plan.
CITY HAS NEW ‘DEMERIT’ POLICY FOR DRIVERS
White noted that as of April 1, the city now has its own “demerit point” system for employee drivers.
“A new Fleet Safety Program was launched on April 1, 2022, where drivers of City of Ottawa vehicles are given the Authority to Operate (ATO). As part of the management of risk, the City assigns ATO Points (similar to provincial demerit points) based on unsafe action, conditions or preventable collisions, including offenses resulting from speeding and failure to obey a stop sign, resulting in risk mitigation actions up to and including suspension of a driver’s ATO,” I explained.