Alberta government scraps changes to traffic ticket appeals

The Calgary Courts Centre on Monday, March 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh. The Canadian Press

The prospect of having to pay to appeal a traffic ticket in Alberta is no longer an issue. Tuesday afternoon, Justice Minister and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro – who has been in the position for less than a month – confirmed the move on the floor of the legislature.

“I can confirm, Mr. Speaker, that it is being scrapped… The JTI initiative is being scrapped and will not be proceeding any further,” Shandro said during question period.

Under Bill 21, or the Provincial Administrative Penalties Act passed in 2020, the Justice Transformation Initiative (JTI) would turn various Traffic Safety Act infractions into administrative penalties in three phases: Phase 1 to include impaired driving-related infractions, Phase 2 to include all other infractions that don’t include bodily harm, and Phase 3 for “any regulated area of provincial jurisdiction,” according to a government website.

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Proposed changes included having only a week to appeal a ticket, having to pay a non-refundable fee of up to $150 and having to go in front of an online adjudicator, not a justice, to have a traffic ticket challenge heard.

Click to play video: 'Alberta government pausing plan to change how people can fight traffic tickets'
Alberta government pausing plan to change how people can fight traffic tickets

Critics of the proposed changes to largely eliminate traffic court called it a reversal of commonly-held perceptions of the court system.

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“Innocent until proven guilty, gone. You’re now guilty until proven innocent,” Charlie Pester of Pointts Calgary told Global News in January.

In late January, the Alberta government announced it had put Phase 2 on hold. The change was originally set to be in place by the end of 2021.

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Minister of Transportation Rajan Sawhney said halting the second phase was in response to the outcry from Albertans, but it would still require cabinet approval.

“I was doing some policy work and we realized that there are elements of the program that were not as effective as we had hoped that they would be,” Sawhney told reporters. “And of course, we heard from Albertans, we heard from our stakeholders, we heard from MLAs. So all of that feedback combined resulted in this recommendation.”

Click to play video: 'Changes could be on the way for fighting traffic violations in Alberta'
Changes could be on the way for fighting traffic violations in Alberta

Opposition justice critic Irfan Sabir said it was a “great victory for Albertans.”

“I’m pleased the UCP was forced to reverse course by the outcry of Alberta drivers,” Sabir said in a statement. “This plan to deny Albertans access to justice should never have been started in the first place.”

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A report from Alberta’s justice ministry claims changes to the Administrative Penalties Information System would “divert approximately two million tickets from the court system to the administrative model where traffic tickets can be addressed online, eliminating approximately 500,000 in-person visits that Albertans make to traffic courts every year.”

– with files from Phil Heidenreich, Global News

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