Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Speeding fine only half of it

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I just knew before I started that it was going to be easier to find Noah's ark than to figure out why my speeding ticket in Winnipeg was $246.25, not something like $115.

Why? Well, the Highway Traffic Act states I am liable to a fine "of not more than $7.70 a km" over the posted speed limit. I was doing 65 in a 50 zone on Grant Avenue so that means I owe $115.50. But the government wants $246.25.

So I read the ticket carefully and there, in small type at the very bottom of the page, the amount I owe is not just the fine but also the cost of processing it.

I can't believe it. Administering a $115.50 fine is $130.75. Who is running this program? A demented accountant with a broken-down abacus?

So I go to my computer and pull up the Manitoba government website, which tells me to contact the provincial court if I have questions. So I phone the court. After waiting 20 minutes (and being told 11 times my call is important) a polite government worker tells me she can't help me because she hasn't got the information in front of her (she mumbles something about a book) and, after looking, can't find it.

But she does tell me that if she remembers correctly the cost of the fine is an additional 14 per cent. OK, that then means I owe $115.50 plus $16.17 for a total of $131.67.

But I'm still $114.58 short of the $246.25 the province says I have to pay.

Almost forgot: There's gotta be PST in all this so I'll add another seven per cent in my calculations ($9.22) and that brings the total to $140.89.

Not there yet.

Nearly going blind searching the Highway Traffic Act and a thing called the Brown Book, which a cop suggested I look up, I finally stumble on to the four components of my fine in the Summary Convictions Act -- the fine itself; the cost of it (presumably the 14 per cent); a justice-services surcharge and something called the Victims Bill of Rights surcharge.

Now I'm really confused. For one thing, my ticket says I'm being charged a fine and costs. It says nothing about surcharges. They tack on additional amounts without describing them in my ticket? Do I see a court challenge in all this and the province having to rewrite all tickets? I only wish.

And do not the court costs and the justice-services surcharge seem suspiciously the same?

But I'm still no closer to finding out what these surcharges cost because they don't put a dollar figure on them or provide a percentage amount.

Even more perplexing is this thing called the Victims Bill of Rights. What's my speeding got to do with a victim? As far as I know, I didn't hit anybody. I'm almost 75 and my memory is fading but it ain't that faded.

Maybe the government is just adding to my fine because it knows somebody in the future is going to hit somebody so they might as well fine somebody for it now, and it might as well be me

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't find out how much the surcharges added to my fine.

Perhaps I have to look at this a different way.

Maybe what the government is telling me is that I am the victim and this Victims Bill of Rights is to protect me. No, that can't be, because the preamble to that bill of rights states that "all victims should be treated with compassion, courtesy and respect" and I sure don't think the government is displaying any of the above attributes when it makes it so hard for me to find out the components of my fine.

There's a simple solution to all this and room on the ticket to do it: identify the fine and four costs -- court costs, PST and the two surcharges, and the percentage cost of each. Then I can calculate what each is costing me. Surely that's not asking too much. But because the government hasn't done this, I suspect they would prefer I didn't know. Which leads me to conclude the government is taking advantage of my speeding to either bill me more than it should or bill me for things that have little or nothing to do with it, or both. And that makes me angry.

What have I learned from all this? It's not speed that kills so much as the frustration of trying to find out why it costs what it does when you do.

Old man Noah never had the same problem. He was lucky. They hadn't yet invented the wheel.

I paid the ticket, and to hell with bureaucracy.

 

Barry Craig is a retired journalist in Winnipeg.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 6, 2013 A9

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