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Parking fine jumps will sting the pocket book

Council debated Monday night on how much to increase the City of Stratford's parking fines
Parking fines are set to increase in Stratford.

"Do the crime, do the time, pay the fine."

City council has approved hefty increases to parking tickets in Stratford. 

A staff recommendation that includes at least tripling a lot of fines was approved, but not everyone on council was in agreement.

Coun. Lesley Biehn agreed that parking ticket prices need to be increased, but she suggested an 80 per cent increase, for two specific proposed fines: parking at an expired meter and parking exceeded time limits. 

Biehn’s reasoning was to let residents and visitors alike know that they are welcome downtown, especially during a pivotal time, when downtown businesses need customers.

That motion was defeated. Coun. Mark Hunter pointed out that the rates for parking aren’t increasing, just the fine. 

“The meter rates are staying the same," Hunter said. "So if you pay your meter, the fine is irrelevant, whether we increase it or not.”

Coun. Brad Beatty summed it up: “do the crime, do the time, pay the fine.”

Beatty argued that currently many people don’t take the fine seriously and consider paying their metre as “insurance” for getting a ticket, figuring that nine times out of 10 they won’t get a ticket. 

Although the amendment was defeated, the motion as a whole was passed, meaning that most of the current $20 set fines would triple to $60, such as parallel parking on the wrong side of the road. 

Parking on any street in a manner which obstructs traffic, also $20, will now have a hefty price tag of $120. 

Parking in an accessible parking space is increasing from $300 to $400. Parking in a fire route is $300, unchanged by the recent decision at council. 

As noted in the management report, over the last fifteen years since the current traffic and parking bylaw was approved, amendments have been made but the fine amounts have mostly remained unchanged. 

Compared to other municipalities, notably Collingwood, Grand Bend, Niagara on the Lake, and St. Marys, many of Stratford’s current parking fines are low, the report notes. 

Although Stratford is often compared to other municipalities, Coun. Cody Sebben said that the Festival City is unique, with a vibrant downtown, a rarity in Ontario now. 

“I don't think when you have harsher penalties, it actually deters people … I think that's what we hope will happen.”

The 2024 draft budget is being prepared using the increased fine rates and projected volumes. 

Using ticket infraction data for the first six months of 2023, revenue under current rates was $89,720, according to the report. Revenue under this same period would project to be $218,180 or an increase of 143 per cent. 

Fines are set by the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice, though municipal bylaws can create or update offences and their fines, if approved by the Ministry of the Attorney General. 

The updated fines will be implemented once approved. While there is no solid timeline for when that may be, Chris Bantock, deputy clerk with the city, said that an extensive communication roll-out will be part of the changes.