WATCH ABOVE: With Alberta set to review photo radar, several Alberta communities won’t be affected because they’ve already eliminated the practise. Vinesh Pratap has more.
The mayor of a central Alberta town that only recently abandoned photo radar as a way to catch speeding drivers is speaking out one day after the provincial government announced a review of whether the practice has simply become a “cash cow for municipalities.”
“It’s easy to call a revenue source a cash cow,” Drayton Valley Mayor Glenn McLean said on Friday.”What I think is important is, look at where the revenue is going.”
Photo radar had become widely unpopular in Drayton Valley and the practice came to an end in the town less than two weeks ago.
But according to McLean, the traffic enforcement cameras brought in $260,000 in revenue in 2016. That money went toward a special reserve fund to pay for safe community initiatives.
“My advice to the province is to look at the underlying problem,” McLean said. “The underlying problem is police funding inequities in Alberta.”
He said in Alberta towns with 5,000 or more people, local authorities are responsible for paying 70 per cent of policing costs, something that prompts many to turn to photo radar.
Seventy-three per cent of the money from photo radar fines goes to the local municipality where the infraction took place, while 27 per cent goes to the province.
Drivers also receive a 15 per cent surcharge for a victims-of-crime fund.
On Thursday, Transportation Minister Brian Mason said many Albertans have come to see photo radar as a meal ticket for municipalities, something he said “a misuse, if that is occurring.”
Mason said the government review, which is expected to be finished by the fall, will explore which municipalities employ traffic enforcement cameras and exactly how much money they’re bringing in.
The review was welcomed by members of all parties in the Alberta legislature but McLean worries it may not address the root of the problem.
“If there was no more photo radar or less photo radar revenue, they’d have some decisions to make about where to supplement that revenue or cut cost.”
Drayton Valley’s move away from traffic enforcement cameras is not without precedent.
Strathcona County voted to abolish the practice in 2011 and replaced the cameras with additional enforcement officers to monitor drivers.
It will be a while yet until the impact of Drayton Valley’s decision can be measured in terms of public safety but anecdotally, McLean said he already believes drivers are speeding more since it stopped using the cameras.
“Speed in the community was a problem.”
Drayton Valley citizens were the ones who decided to ditch photo radar.
In February, they voted to scrap photo radar enforcement in a plebiscite.
“It’s not a very good way to get income for the town,” Jason Holmgren, a Drayton Valley resident, said. “If they’re hiding in the bushes and stuff like that just getting photo radar, I think it’s a bad idea. It doesn’t do anything for people’s safety really.
“They’re getting punished for something they don’t really know they’re doing so it’s just a cash grab as far as I can tell.”
Global News spoke to RCMP Const. Michael Hibbs with the Capital West Integrated Traffic Unit about the issue of speeding on Friday.
He said he doesn’t take an official position on photo radar and that the RCMP only advises municipalities implementing photo radar on what areas tend to see lots of speeders and at what time of day.
Hibbs said people need to be aware when they’re speeding and understand the potential dangers.
“The faster you go, the less time you have to stop,” he said.
“I don’t like photo radar, I’d sooner the policeman being right there giving it (a ticket) to you,” said Drayton Valley resident Ed Roberts. He said he only received one ticket during the town’s brief flirtation with photo radar.
“It was an area where there’s never anybody there,” he said. “There’s a playground there in the summertime… I went by there over the speed limit… it was winter and I got nailed for that.”
“It doesn’t matter to me if it’s here or not because I do the speed limit,” said Drayton Valley resident Heather Ernst.
Drayton Valley is located about 145 kilometres southwest of Edmonton.
-with files from Vinesh Pratap and The Canadian Press