08/09/2012

Over $1 million in municipal fines go unpaid and uncollected each week across Ontario. August 2012 Backgrounder.

In 2011, AMO made addressing unpaid Provincial Offences Act (POA) fines one of its Top 12 Asks. The “Asks” were designed to highlight key municipal priorities leading up to the 2011 provincial election. 

The 2012 Drummond Commission further reported on the reform of public services, recommending enhancements to POA fine collection. In March 2012, the provincial budget came through with some key commitments to improve the collection of unpaid fines. This included two new tools – vehicle license plate denial, and discussions with the federal government to offset unpaid fines against federal tax refunds. 

The Ministry of Transportation has also established a committee to explore this issue. This committee of multiple ministries and municipal representatives has met several times and is working through detailed options to deliver improved fine collection. An announcement regarding these improvements is expected shortly.

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 that constitute a primary source of funding for municipal court operations.

In 2006, the Provincial Offences Act Streamlining Working Group made a series of recommendations to streamline POA proceedings to improve the local delivery of justice in a fair, timely and accessible manner. Only a handful of those recommendations have been enacted to date.

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