Taxing by Tickets - Abuse of the law?

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Taxing by Tickets - Abuse of the law?

In the first two-weeks of Calgary’s street sweeping program the City has issued over 19,000 tickets and towed approximately 260 vehicles.

Think about it, 19,000 tickets at $80-$90/ticket, totalling to a minimum ticket revenue of approximately $1,615,000 and growing.

The City of Calgary justifies its ticket program as a necessary incentive to “curb” (all pun intended) behaviour. But is the City really looking to address a street cleaning problem, caused by people parking on dirty streets?  In this writer's opinion, there is a strong possibility that the City of Calgary is abusing its ticketing power to generate revenue, not to curb behaviour.

Why do I say this?

According to some residents, the City is not properly notifying those who park on the street about scheduled street sweeping.  Why would the City ignore properly notifying people if not to catch them unaware? If this was the only problem, my scepticism about the City's street cleaning program might be misplaced.  Notification, however, is not the only issue. 

On April 29th, 2019, news radio (66CFR) broadcast a report outlining concerns from one Alderman that street sweepers were scheduled on dates and times when it would be reasonable to expect certain neighbourhoods to have denser than usual parking.  By way of example,  street cleaning was scheduled around churches during Sunday mass. The Alderman questioned the logic behind scheduling street sweeping on days when Sunday churchgoers would be at their place of worship. In my view, the Alderman's concerns were charitable; for of all the places where weekly street cleaning might have a lesser impact, its near a church, but on Sunday it was guaranteed to have an impact.

On April 30th, 2019 Alderman Shane Keating reported on 66CFR that in some neighbourhoods the City changed the street cleaning schedule, but ticketed anyway.  So residents got fined even though no street cleaning was actually occurring.

One resident reported (as per the above linked CTV news article) that he has lived in Calgary for “26 years” and that the City has previously placed adequate signage warning about scheduled street sweeping.  This year, however, the City did not. 

"The City of Calgary roads department says it sympathetic to people who receive tickets but there are numerous avenues to find out when your street is being swept including community signs that are verified prior to ticketing, an online address lookup for scheduling, text alerts and email alerts".

In my view, this was a public relations announcement, not a true expression of sympathy.

We know the City of Calgary and other municipalities are in the business of generating revenue by taxing citizens.  We know that the City of Calgary is suffering from a revenue shortfall caused in large measure by this Province’s present economic crisis.  What better way to raise money than to sin tax citizens; and what better way to catch citizens unaware than by scheduling street cleaning around churches on Sundays and by not putting up sufficient signage so people can make other arrangements.

 Sin taxing -- either by ticketing or armed tax collection -- is one way a Government generates revenue. 

In my opinion, this is not only potentially abusive, but also indirectly takes money away from the many businesses that drive our local economy.  When the City of Calgary takes $80-90 from a citizen, there is no chance that money lands at your local business.  And remember, revenue generated from tickets is from money left over that has already been taxed by various levels of Government.  This means the government is carrying out a multi-layered attack on your pocketbook. 

We need to be aware how governments use their power to pilfer your earnings.   Remember, a government doesn’t have any money unless it takes it from its citizens. Whenever the government takes money from a citizen, that money is no longer left to be added to the Canadian economy. The net effect is that businesses are negatively impacted. When business is negatively impacted, jobs are at risk. When unemployment increases, tax revenue decreases and Governments are left to find creative ways to tax citizens. Issuing tickets is one way to generate additional revenue.

The way to stop Government from taxing by tickets is to fight the ticket. Even if you lose, you might help dozens of other people from losing their case. At some point, the Government needs to think about the economy of ticket enforcement; for if every citizen fought their ticket, it wouldn't be worth writing the ticket. If it's not worth writing a ticket, you may not get one.  

David Chow is most often retained to defend clients charged with serious criminal offences.  Though he is best known for handling multi-kilo drug prosecutions, impaired driving cases and serious crimes of violence, he also defends regulatory cases, such as prosecutions under the Excise Act, Customs Act, Fair Trading Act (FTA), Traffic Safety Act (TSA) and the Rules of the Road Regulation (RRR).

David G. Chow

Calgary Criminal Lawyer