Traffic Changes Delayed 90 to 120 days by UCP
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Controversial traffic court changes on how and how long Albertans have to fight speeding tickets, scheduled to start Feb. 1, have been postponed for 90 to 120 days.
The overhaul designed to streamline the court system would see traffic court eliminated, speeding tickets emailed, and a $150 fee levied to dispute the ticket. Albertans would also have only seven days to contest a ticket.
“We have heard the concerns Albertans raised when a training document was reported on. It’s important that people understand the training document did not reflect what the program is and what the benefits are for Albertans,” Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney and acting Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Sonya Savage wrote in a joint statement on Wednesday.
“We will take the next 90 to 120 days to ensure that we communicate and consult with Albertans and that they are educated on the changes proposed in Phase 2. We will listen to what Albertans have to say and we will share the benefits of these changes with them.”
The joint statement indicates Alberta’s court system is facing a significant backlog, allowing serious criminals to get back on the streets because the courts are bogged down with traffic issues.
“This is unacceptable,” the Ministers wrote. “Every year, more than two million traffic tickets are issued in Alberta. Of those tickets, 400,000 are challenged. This results in more than 60,000 challenges to traffic tickets receiving court dates.”
Shortly before the UCP joint statement, NDP Justice Critic Irfan Sabir called on the newly appointed Justice Minister to halt the UCP’s planned changes to appeal traffic tickets.
“I’m imploring the new minister to scrap these fees, scrap the seven-day deadline, and halt the implementation of this unjust process until they have consulted with Alberta drivers,” SAbir wrote in a media release.
“The reality is that many Albertans are struggling financially and can’t produce $150 within seven days. If they are unable to produce that money, it means many working Albertans will be prevented from making their voices heard and denied access to justice.”
Sawhney and Savage said the province is spending $10 million to hire 50 new prosecutors and support staff, to better serve rural Albertans.
“We’ve introduced remote hearings, trials and sentencings, and allowed for the email filing of court documents,” the statement reads, adding the status quo is not working for police tied up for hours in courts, or for the court system forced to delay serious criminal matters to address speeding tickets.
“Albertans will always have the right to challenge tickets and due process under the law. Albertans will always have the ability to dispute fines or make their payments quickly and efficiently.”