UBCM backs Penticton’s photo radar resolution

Union of B.C. Municipalities convention backed a Penticton resolution to lobby the province for the authority to bring back photo radar.

Principal Kelly Jones of Parkway Elementary School watches from the sidewalk as students Kyarah Burchell and Douglas Korsmo use the Kinney Avenue crosswalk in front of the school. The wooden figures identifying the crossing were both struck by vehicles in 2011 but have since been repaired and are back on duty.

Principal Kelly Jones of Parkway Elementary School watches from the sidewalk as students Kyarah Burchell and Douglas Korsmo use the Kinney Avenue crosswalk in front of the school. The wooden figures identifying the crossing were both struck by vehicles in 2011 but have since been repaired and are back on duty.

Union of B.C. Municipalities convention backed a Penticton resolution to lobby the province for the authority to bring back photo radar, limited to school zones.

“The debate was fairly spirited, there were lots of people who brought the ghosts of photo radar past forward, there were concerns about it being unfair, tempting challenge in court,” said Penticton Mayor Garry Litke, who noted that earlier that day a child was killed in a Surrey school zone.

The RCMP predicted that in the first two weeks of school two children in B.C. will die. So here we are, as we are debating the resolution on the floor, there is a tragedy in Surrey,” said Litke, adding that he didn’t find out about the death until after the resolution had passed.

Objections from the floor included Thompson Nicola Regional District director Ken Gillis, a lawyer and former truck driver, who called photo radar “big brotherism at its very worst,” imposing fines without the ability to contest the ticket in case of a machine malfunction.

Burnaby councillor Nick Volkow, also a truck driver, said speed cameras are a “cash grab” that communities would come to rely on for revenue.

During his August election campaign for mayor, Litke noted the income potential of speed cameras.

“This seemed like a simple solution. It takes the picture and if you’re wrong, you’re wrong and you pay your fine,” said Litke. “And it would enhance city coffers if the municipalities were allowed to operate this.”

Premier Christy Clark also called photo radar a “cash grab” in the televised leadership debate before the May 14 election. All four party leaders in the debate said they would not bring it back as a province-wide program.

Litke estimated that about 70 per cent of the delegations backed the motion, though there was passionate  opposition. The original motion was amended to change the name to “speed cameras” to avoid the stigma of the unpopular province-wide speed enforcement program ended by the B.C. Liberal government in 2001.

Penticton council took on the issue after a Parent’s Advisory Council approached the city’s transportation committee for help in purchasing a speed reader board, which they had already raised half the cost of.

According to Litke, a retired RCMP officer on the committee advised it would probably be a waste of money because people get used to the radar reader and know nothing is going to happen. Other alternatives were also considered ineffective.

Speed bumps aren’t appropriate for school zones that are only in effect 20 per cent of the time, and police don’t have enough staff to monitor school zones, Litke said.

The resolution asks for municipalities to have the option of installing speed cameras where speeding is a problem, and ability to impose a “significant fine as a deterrent,” he said.

“We are not asking them for any money, all that we are saying is to give us the legislative authority to do this in our municipalities,” said Litke. “We may choose to do it in certain school zones, it doesn’t have to be done everywhere.”

Duncan councillor Tom Duncan, a long-time ICBC employee, said “there is no doubt that photo radar cameras reduce the speed where they are deployed, and we have to support this to save lives.”

(with files from Tom Fletcher)