ontario tickets

People owe Toronto more than $550 million in unpaid fines

If you've ever completely forgotten about — or even worse, deliberately evaded paying — a ticket, you're not alone, as you're just one of many residents who collectively owe the City of Toronto a whopping $552 million in outstanding fines as of the end of January.

Despite the fact that legislation like the Highway Traffic Act or the Trespass to Property Act are provincial in nature, the collection of penalties issued under them are the responsibility of the city per something called the Provincial Offences Act (POA).

This separate act outlines the procedures for the prosecution of offences under other provincial statutes or municipal bylaws, all which fall under the jurisdiction of the city, whether they be for speeding or a parking infraction.

As noted on the City of Toronto's website, "every person convicted of an offence under the Provincial Offences Act is sent a Notice of Fine and due date by the City." If left unpaid, the fine goes into default and can end up sent to a collections agency or added to your municipal tax bill if you own property.

A defaulted fine can also lead to the suspension of your driver's license or denial of license plate registration renewal, and enforcement in the Superior Court of Justice if you're really giving the government a hard time.

Because there is no statute of limitations on these penalties, the City can and will continue to hunt you down for payment, and can go as far as seizing your property or ordering your employer to garnish your wages if you do not pay a court fine on time.

Yet despite these risks, it is clear that a whole whack of people are failing to properly pay their fines on time.

According to the CBC, though most fines aren't more than $5,000, there are actually a handful of individuals in the GTA who owe not just petty amounts, but $250,000 or more in POA fines, which altogether add up to $12 million owed to local governments.

Thankfully, these outliers are not the norm, with the city's Court Services division acknowledging that the majority of people do pay their fines voluntarily.

"The collection of defaulted Provincial Offences Act fines is integral to ensuring the fair administration of Justice and provides the public with assurance that laws are effective and fines are a meaningful deterrent when laws are broken," the division told blogTO.

"People are encouraged to pay fines promptly to avoid late fees, interest, adversely affecting credit rating, civil enforcement, driver licence suspensions, vehicle plate denials and amounts added to property tax bills."

Still, the vast amount still owed to the municipality and the fact that some fines have been left unpaid for decades does make one wonder how effective these measures, though comprehensive, really are.

Lead photo by

Sean Smith

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