07/01/2011

Municipalities Need Tools to Collect Unpaid Fines, an AMO Backgrounder for the Ontario Provincial Election 2011.
Over $1 million in municipal fines go unpaid and uncollected each week across Ontario.

Currently, municipalities lack effective enforcement and collection tools to collect fines issued under the Provincial Offences Act system. This system is used to prosecute non-criminal charges such as traffic offences, trespassing charges and liquor licensing violations.

Starting in 1997, responsibility for POA administration including courts and fine collection was transferred to municipalities. Since then, a number of issues have emerged. In particular, municipalities have had difficulty collecting outstanding fines – fines which constitute a primary source of funding for municipal court operations.

Provincial action is needed so that municipalities can collect fines and ensure the administration of justice under the Provincial Offences Act.

In 2006, the Provincial Offences Act Streamlining Working Group was established and in 2009 made a series of recommendations to streamline POA proceedings to improve the local delivery of justice in a fair, timely and accessible manner.  While some of those recommendations have been enacted, much more can and should be done.

Further provincial action to improve fine collection could include improved inter-ministry and inter-jurisdictional information sharing, or permitting enforcement techniques for repeat offenders such as the use of vehicle seizure or wheel clamps.

Often, repeated parking and traffic offenders from outside Ontario escape penalties because they reside in another province or state.  This situation is particularly acute for Ontario municipalities located near provincial boundaries or popular tourist or business destinations that attract a high number of visitors from outside the province.

Municipalities need a wider range of enforcement and collections options for the long-term viability of the Provincial Offences Act (POA) system, as illustrated by the millions of dollars in outstanding fines.