OPINION: Ditching minor warrants is the right way to go

Alberta is, at last, heading in the right direction with a move that will create a better overall run justice system in this week's column.

Alberta is, at last, heading in the right direction with a move that will create a better overall run justice system.

Last week, the province announced that as of May 1 it will no longer expect police to chase down people that have scoffed at paying tickets for minor offences with an arrest warrant.

Instead, any outstanding fines for tickets such as not shovelling a sidewalk, a municipal parking violation, failing to pay a transit fare and other non-traffic related offences will now have to be paid before someone can renew their driver’s licence or vehicle registration.

The move is expected to save the court system nearly 9,000 man-hours a year by eliminating court clerks from having to go through the process of filling these warrants. Annually, Alberta issues more than 200,000 warrants with around 90,000 issued for minor or non-traffic offences.

That also means the already clogged courtrooms in this province can allocate more time to dealing with actual crimes that have been committed, instead of getting thrown out because the case took too long to get to trial.

As well, police and peace officers won’t have to waste valuable time filling out paperwork and, due to another change, the officers will now be able to file tickets with the court electronically. The hope is that officers will spend more time on patrol and investigating criminal activity instead of sitting at a desk.

Both B.C. and Saskatchewan have had similar legislation in place for more than 20 years, so it’s about time Alberta caught up.

Unfortunately, the government didn’t take that next step and force individuals with outstanding traffic fines to pay up in the same fashion. The other two provinces mentioned can and do hold back from issuing licence and vehicle renewals if someone has an unpaid speeding ticket or less serious traffic offences.

However, if the fine is large enough, the individual can enter into a payment arrangement to receive the renewal. If you want time to pay on a fine in Alberta, you need to do that through the court process, something that can take time and costs the person plus the justice system money.

With how the private registries are tied into the government systems, it can’t be that difficult to go that extra mile and save the court system even more time while shifting resources from traffic court in order to generate further efficiencies. Heck, people can pay their traffic fines now at a registries office for a fee, thanks PCs so why can’t they change it and hold back something that is a privilege and not a right.

And don’t howl and yell that you need a vehicle, a licence or that permit and that you’re innocent until proven guilty because the process would remain the same. The fine, or sentence, isn’t applicable until the court date passes or all outstanding appeals have been dealt with.

If the government did that, maybe then people would slow down on the highways if they knew they had to pay that $500 or more when their registration came due.

Oh whoa, the playoffs

Well, that first round of the NHL post-season didn’t go anything like I figured. Who would’ve thought Nashville and Anaheim would sweep, that Minnesota would implode and that both Montreal and San Jose would lose their scoring touches.

So it’s onto round two and here are some utterly complete guesses Nashville in six, Anaheim in 5, Pittsburgh in 7 and the Rangers in six. Have fun watching, but I’ll be checking out and watching some baseball. The Jays you say? Nope, I prefer to watch the National League where pitchers actually have to play the entire game.

But that is…just an observation.

 

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