A parking enforcement officer hands out parking tickets. (QMI Agency/DAVE THOMAS)
PETERBOROUGH, ONT. - Remember that speeding ticket you got and never paid? Thought it went away? Thought the government forgot? Not so fast.
As the Ontario government faces huge deficits and an estimated $1 billion in unpaid fines, those with unpaid Provincial Offence Act (POA) fines can expect municipalities to flex their muscles with a more aggressive approach to collection in the coming months.
For some, that could mean an immediate suspension of their driver’s licence until the fine is paid. Others can expect collection agencies knocking on their door on behalf of City Hall. Some offenders could be sued.
“My job is to ensure that I collect as much of the debt owed to the Crown as I can,” explained Janice Hoskins, Peterborough, Ont.'s manager of court services. “Even if they are 10 or 15 years old, debts to the Crown never go away, not through bankruptcy or, frankly, even death.”
The Ontario Association of Police Services Boards released a white paper last year — called A $Billion Problem — that showed the size of the problem.
The province has since provided reports to municipalities, which are responsible for fine collection, detailing cases in which fines are owed but no enforcement had been attempted.
In Peterborough, many of the fines are over 10 years old and some dated back as far as 1987, Hoskins said.
“What I’m trying to do is bring all the fines into the current collection streams so that we can move forward and collect on them,” Hoskins said.
So anyone who was fined or ticketed in Peterborough and hasn't paid up could receive a driver’s suspension (for moving infractions such as speeding), face a collection agency (jeopardizing their credit rating) or face civil action.
Toronto resident Delores Wurtz was ticketed for speeding in 2002 en route to her summer home in Buckhorn, Ont.
The IT consultant said she paid a company to fight the ticket. The company lost the case, but she was spared several demerit points. She said she was under the impression the company had paid the fine on her behalf.
But on Tuesday, Wurtz received notification that her driver’s licence had been suspended. The 10-year-old fine had never been paid.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I hadn’t had any tickets in a long time.”
Unfortunately, Wurtz had no receipt showing the fine had been paid and the company she had hired to fight the ticket has since gone bankrupt. She paid the $150 fine and an additional $150 to have her licence reinstated, but she still has to wait four days without a driver’s licence while her file is updated.
“If I don’t work I don’t get paid,” she said. “I had no prior notification from the government. If I would have got a heads-up, I would have just paid it because my licence was so valuable.”