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Prince Rupert city council changes voluntary payment for parking infractions

A voluntary fine is not a fine. It’s an invitation to make a contribution — Rob Buchan, city manager
Parking tickets in Prince Rupert are currently under a voluntary payment system. City Council voted on July 25 to change the process. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

In an effort to combat the voluntary payment parking ticket system in place, Prince Rupert City council was presented with a new bylaw notification system proposal on July 25.

The bright yellow notices handed out by city bylaw infraction officers, posted to vehicles are often seen waving from windshields in the downtown core, state on the front that payment of the ticket is voluntary - not mandatory.

Rosa Miller, corporate administrator explained there is only a 25 per cent payment rate on tickets issued in 2022 and proposed an updated procedure for the city. New bylaw notification systems implemented in other municipalities have shown an increased payment rate of up to 40 per cent.

Miller presented the new Bylaw Notification System explaining it is an alternative approach for resolving minor bylaw infractions. Under the Local Government Bylaw Enforcement Act, municipalities can replace their current system with an adjudicator system instead of a provincial court system for collections.

Many residents are not aware that the current parking ticket payment system is a voluntary one.

City Manager Rob Buchan said the process has been educational for him learning about the system.

“For me, it’s one piece of our framework that I wasn’t fully aware of. A voluntary fine is not a fine. It’s an invitation to make a contribution which people can properly and understandably ignore if there is no requirement to make a payment,” he said, adding he strongly recommends the city proceed in the direction of the proposed adjudication system as the changes will be profound.

City Councillor Wade Niesh said he knows bylaw officers have been busy and he is seeing many vehicles around town with multiple tickets. He believes by implementing a couple of quick changes, he can see the 25 per cent payment rate increase.

“I know of many people that don’t pay their bylaw [infractions] because, as it states on the ticket, it is a voluntary ticket. So they feel that they don’t have the need to pay it — and there is no enforcement to pay it,” he said.

The city councillor suggested a locking-boot system for prolific parking offenders be implemented. Miller said the city already has the enforcement boots.

“Why are they not getting booted? Or why are they not getting towed? … if they get towed, they would have to pay the tickets to get [the vehicle] back or if they get booted, then they have to pay the tickets to release it,” Niesh said.

Miller explained as present tickets are voluntary to pay, it would be difficult to boot a vehicle under a voluntary ticket. If the bylaws were changed booting and towing would be allowed, she said.

“However, with the implementation of the adjudication system, once you don’t pay your ticket after a certain number of days, it does go to collections. Then there is no option to not pay your ticket. You will go before an adjudicator and providing the evidence that was presented, you will be required to pay your ticket,” Miller said.

Council voted to support the request, which will be forwarded to the Ministry of Attorney General and may take six to eight weeks for Prince Rupert’s full inclusion into the program. Miller said she anticipates to have the program in place by the mid-fall of 2022.

 K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist 
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