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Enquiry into the City’s Process for Out-of-Province Licence Plate Owners to Challenge Parking Tickets

The Issue

Mr. T, a Quebec resident, complained to us that City staff weren’t letting him fight three Toronto parking tickets. He said that staff at Parking Tag Operations had told him there was no way to challenge the tickets in court because his car was registered in Quebec, not in Ontario.

Ombudsman Toronto is generally an office of last resort, so before beginning our Enquiry we referred the complaint to the manager of Water and Parking Tags, Revenue Services Division, who oversees the parking ticket dispute process.

The next day, the manager informed Mr. T that he could, in fact, request a trial for one of the tickets. According to the manager, the two other tickets were too old.

The manager said that to request a trial for the one ticket, Mr. T needed to provide a “registration Certificate from the Province of Quebec.” In a later email the manager told Mr. T he needed to submit a “certificate of ownership… from the Province of Quebec.”

After another email exchange in which Mr. T and the manager attempted to clarify which document was required, Mr. T stated that he had already submitted a copy of his registration certificate. The matter remained unresolved.

The same day, Mr. T emailed the complaints account for Revenue Services. He submitted a copy of his Quebec vehicle ownership information along with his complaint.

Revenue Services customer service staff replied to Mr. T, telling him that he could not file a Notice of Intention to Appear (a request for a trial) because his car was registered in Quebec.

Mr. T complained to Ombudsman Toronto that the City’s response to his request for a trial was unfair.

Our Enquiry

We gathered information from Mr. T, from staff at the Ministry of Transportation, and from staff at the following City divisions: Revenue Services (Water and Parking Tags and Customer Service Counters and First Appearance Facilities departments), Legal Services and Court Services. 

We also reviewed the relevant legislation, including the Provincial Offences Act, as well as past Council decisions regarding parking tickets and the prosecution of out-of-province plate owners.

What We Found

Our Enquiry found fairness issues regarding the City’s approach to and system for vehicles registered outside of Ontario, including that: 

  • The City is not legally authorized under the Provincial Offences Act to prevent someone from accessing a trial simply because their vehicle is registered outside Ontario.
  • However, staff cannot as a practical matter schedule a case for trial without obtaining proper vehicle ownership information, and they do not have a mechanism in place to obtain this information for out-of-province vehicles.
  • Further, drivers with vehicles registered in Ontario can challenge their Toronto parking tickets (issued up to August 28, 2017) through the court system, but out-of-province plate owners cannot.

Our Recommendations

We made the following recommendations: 

  • The City should confirm that out-of-province plate owners will have access to the new Administrative Penalty System, and that they will have the same options to dispute parking tickets as Ontario plate owners.  
  • The City should document the process by which out-of-province plate owners can access the Administrative Penalty System, and how staff will administer this process.  
  • The City should train staff so that they are fully aware that out-of-province plate owners will now be able to access the new Administrative Penalty System, and ensure that staff know how this process works. 
  • The City should post information online about out-of-province plate owners and how they can access the new Administrative Penalty System.

By the time our Enquiry was complete, the City had cancelled Mr. T’s tickets, so no recommendation concerning that was necessary. 

Revenue Services also assured us that in light of what this Enquiry revealed, it will cancel the parking ticket of any out-of-province licence plate owner who requests a trial to dispute a parking ticket issued before August 28, 2017, as long as the request is made on time.

The City’s Response

The City accepted our recommendations and agreed to implement them.