City of Ottawa Says It Can’t Collect Hundreds of Unpaid ‘Freedom Convoy’ Parking Tickets
One-third of parking tickets handed out during convoy remain unpaid
The City of Ottawa will most likely let hundreds of parking tickets issued to vehicles that occupied downtown Ottawa go unpaid, the city’s Auditor General says.
According to a new report from Ottawa’s Auditor General, a year after the fact, the City of Ottawa has only managed to collect fines on a little over half of all parking tickets issued during last winter’s “Freedom Convoy” — and the City has no real ability to pursue unpaid tickets issued to hundreds of “out-of-province” vehicles.
City of Ottawa Auditor General Nathalie Gougeon released three reports Wednesday reviewing the responses of the City of Ottawa, Ottawa Police and the Ottawa Police Services Board to the three week convoy occupation.
— Office of the Auditor General – City of Ottawa (@oagottawa) February 8, 2023
While the Auditor General’s main focus centred on breakdowns in communication between territorial Ottawa Police leaders and confused City officials, the reports also provide new data on the City’s struggles to collect parking fines.
According to the report, City of Ottawa by-law officers did not issue any tickets in the occupied downtown “red zone” for the entire first week of the convoy.
By February 22, 2022, by-law officers issued a total of 3,812 parking tickets in the “red zone” — however, not all of these tickets were issued to convoy vehicles and the City’s data shows one-third of those fines remain unpaid.
“BLRS (By-law and Regulatory Services) issued a total of 3,812 parking tickets within the downtown area where the convoy protest was being held,” the report states.
“While a significant percentage of these tickets were issued to protesters, this total includes tickets issued to residents in the area during that period,” noting that a “number of these vehicles belonged to residents or members of the media.”
According to a September 2022 status update on those parking tickets, the City of Ottawa had collected fines associated with 2,139 (59%) of those tickets. Another 137 (4%) were voided due to officer error and 360 (9%) are being challenged in court.
The remaining 1,176 tickets, or 31% of all tickets in the occupied red zone, are “outstanding tickets” which have been “ignored by the recipient.” Of these, 360 outstanding tickets were “issued to out-of-province vehicles,” excluding Québec.
“The City will likely not be able to collect on these tickets,” Gougeon concedes.
While Ontario and Québec drivers “must pay outstanding tickets and fines before they can renew their licence plate and unpaid tickets can go to a collection agency,” Gougeon notes that “there are no reciprocal agreements between Ontario and other provinces (other than Québec)” and a “collection agency is not used for out–of–province unpaid parking tickets because it is not cost effective for the City.”
The Auditor General report also sheds light on one of the enduring mysteries of the “Freedom Convoy” — namely, why the City of Ottawa seemed powerless to stop vehicles from camping out in the middle of busy downtown streets when it always had the power to issue parking tickets.
The report explains both City of Ottawa management and Ottawa Police told by-law officers not to issue tickets due to safety concerns.
“The OPS (Ottawa Police Service) repeatedly warned incident responders not to be ‘the spark’ that would incite riots or trigger violence from protesters,” Gougeon’s report adds. “It was generally understood that BLRS would require OPS approval and accompaniment to issue tickets to convoy vehicles or protesters.”
“Since the OPS was not always available to support BLRS officers, many convoy vehicles were not ticketed.”
Gougeon notes convoy occupiers “also avoided being ticketed by removing their license plates and covering up the VIN numbers on their vehicles.”
The City of Ottawa also issued two noise infraction tickets and a third ticket for blocking a highway — though the City is having trouble with those tickets too.
“One was paid, one was cancelled, and one is in default and has been sent to collections,” the Auditor General’s report states.
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