The City of Vancouver is considering a motion that would permit it to work with the BC Government and Vancouver Police Department in an attempt to withhold driver’s licenses for individuals who have unpaid bylaw fines for fighting and other bylaw offences.
NPA Councillor Melissa De Genova appears to have tabled a motion that suggests the City of Vancouver should try to withhold driver’s licenses from individuals who have not paid these fines. However, there is currently no statutory authority for this to be done. Her motion would have the City of Vancouver pressure the province to amend BC’s Motor Vehicle Act for the sole purpose of the City collecting more revenue.
It is unlikely this will happen.
Currently, the Motor Vehicle Act allows ICBC to refuse to issue a driver’s license to a person for unpaid fines, in certain circumstances. (http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/96318_01#section26) These circumstances include debts owing for traffic-related offences, like traffic tickets, Skytrain tickets, Immediate Roadside Prohibitions and the like. It also permits ICBC to refuse a license for unpaid insurance claims.
Nothing about the scheme, purpose, or object of the Motor Vehicle Act suggests that it, or even Section 26, is meant to be used in a way that allows the provincial government to act as the collections agent, collecting revenue for an individual City. Remember that none of the City of Vancouver’s revenue goes to fund any provincial projects. It stays in the city. Meaning that the City of Vancouver will be sucking the resources from a provincial agency, already in huge financial crisis, solely for its own personal gain.
The purpose of the Act is to address issues of road and highway safety, to create a scheme of rules of the road, and to create a scheme by which people can obtain licenses by meeting conditions as set out in the Act that relate to their fitness, ability to drive, and likelihood to comply with driving legislation. The purpose of the Act is not to function as a backdoor to collect fines from individuals for fighting outside a bar on the Granville Strip.
And so the Motor Vehicle Act would have to be amended, or a new piece of provincial legislation written and passed, that would allow the province to refuse to issue a driver’s license to a person who had an unpaid fine for fighting. Yes, Councillor De Genova thinks that provincial tax dollars and legislative time should be spent on this nonsense project, completely out of step with the purpose of the Motor Vehicle Act, so that the City of Vancouver can put more money in their coffers.
What’s worse is that such an amendment or legislation would undoubtedly be the subject of a Charter challenge. Section 8 of the Charter requires that actions taken under the Motor Vehicle Act be reasonably reviewable. The reviewability of a bylaw ticket for fighting is seriously in question. The limitation period to dispute it is short, disclosure is not provided as a matter of course or by right, but only by request, and the matters are prosecuted by an ad hoc Crown agency. The result is that a person who wants to dispute this ticket has to jump through a convoluted series of hoops under the City of Vancouver bylaws, and if they do not do those properly, will not succeed in even having their dispute heard much less the dispute itself.
Add in the potential for a driver’s license to be cancelled, and all of a sudden drivers who receive these tickets will be bogging down the courts with charges. This means police will be spending their time in court on these cases, rather than policing.
Finally, the City of Vancouver has adequate means to enforce bylaw fines that are unpaid. The City can send the fine to collections and have it paid that way.
Oh, and if all of this is not enough, there’s the fact that the government has already refused to use its provincial power to withhold driver’s licenses to help the City enforce bylaw fines. And that was involving over $6 million in unpaid parking fines. These are actually related to driving, and yet the province was not moved to be the collection agent for the City.
It’s unlikely this will happen now. What the City should focus on is how it can address unpaid fines within its municipal powers, rather than taking it out on the biggest cash cow they can find: drivers.
Vancouver Criminal Lawyer with a focus on impaired driving, cannabis legalization and related issues, and immediate roadside prohibition defence.