BY ANDREW SMITH
LISTOWEL – The challenge of collecting unpaid fines in the province is one shared by authorities in Perth County, amounting to a million dollar problem.
The issue of unpaid Provincial Offences Act fines was raised at the March 26 meeting of the North Perth Police Services Board, in response to a tougher stance from the government on fine enforcement in the form of Bill 34. The bill, which would amend the Highway Traffic Act to enable broader use of plate denial for outstanding fines and better collection from out of province offenders, is a welcome change according to NPPSB chair Ken Lawrence.
“There are so many people out there that owe money, almost a billion dollars,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”
A news release from the Ontario Association of Police Services Boards pegs the amount of unpaid fines at over a billion dollars, with approximately one-third of all fines going unpaid. Vince Judge, warden for Perth County and NPPSB member, said county council and staff have been concerned about the rising number of people neglecting their fines.
“The county has been concerned for a long time that the dollars that should be recouped from the fines have not been coming in,” Judge said.
Linda Becker, provincial offence co-ordinator, estimates that Perth County alone has $5.5 million worth of unpaid fines, and that every avenue is pursued in an attempt to collect.
“We do our best and use every legal tool we can to get it,” Becker said.
Becker said one of their best tools is the ability to suspend licence plates for drivers who attract fines without paying them, and that warning letters sent to that effect usually drive the message home.
“That gets a good response, around 50 per cent of those letters get responded to,” she said. “Volume wise, most offences are suspendable.”
Becker said that three collection agencies have been working on the county’s behalf since February this year, but even they have a limit to how far they can go in an effort to track down fines.
“They’re working hard to collect those fines for us,” she said. “They have to follow their legislation, and we have to follow ours.”