Municipal employees in Canada’s capital are getting a free ride from the city’s newly-installed photo radar system.
“If the city isn’t going to make its employees pay the tickets, it should just scrap photo radar,” said Jay Goldberg, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation Ontario Director. “This makes it look like photo radar is more about money than safety for the city and taxpayers are already paying enough.”
Records obtained by the CTF via access to information showed 989 photo radar and red-light camera tickets were handed out to City of Ottawa vehicles from January, 2019, to August, 2021.
At least 159 of those tickets were for vehicles in the city fleet, aside from those used by the police, transit, and paramedic services. The combined cost is just over $37,000.
“Charges laid under the red-light camera and/or photo radar provisions of the Highway Traffic Act 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,” read a statement from City of Ottawa solicitor David White. “As a result, the city does not require drivers to pay those fines.”
White said the tickets are handled as disciplinary matters instead, none of which include the employee paying their ticket. The CTF confirmed that policy with the city’s communications department.
Local Ottawa taxpayers and drivers passing through do not receive the same benefit and have to pay their tickets themselves.
Ottawa’s policy contrasts with the City of Toronto, where the city pays employee tickets and then tries to recover the cost afterwards. The City of Edmonton also makes employees pay, according to records obtained by the CTF.
In March, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said the city had lost $1.1 million in revenue throughout 2021 due to photo radar tickets being mailed late.
“Not only do current photo radar policies create a two-tier system, but the photo radars in general are just government cash cows,” said Goldberg. “If Ottawa was actually using photo radar to promote public safety, every government employee who gets a ticket would be forced to pay it out of pocket. The fact that Watson is worried about lost revenue shows he’s motivated by money.”