Speaking out — By Jamie Warren
For most people, $162,641.46 is considered a lot of money. It would buy a house in some parts of the province, three pickup trucks, or a snowmobile/ATV for each month of the year.
This is even more than the grand prize of this year’s Hard of Hearing Association lottery.
Yet this is the amount of money that one driver owes the province and ultimately the taxpayers of this province.
As of November 2013 there was over $30 million in outstanding fines owed to the province.
The province posted a deficit during the last budget. This means that they will spend more money than they take in.
Getting people to pay these fines would help to either fund badly needed programs or reduce the deficit.
When someone gets caught and owes over $160,000 in fines, clearly they do not have a licence, registration or insurance.
Chances are they don’t even own the car they were caught in.
Getting to this amount of fines does not happen overnight.
Also, once the fines get to this level, the chances of them getting repaid is highly unlikely.
So how does government ensure that it collects the 30 million owed to it? Drivers who owe this amount of money either do not have the means to pay back the money or have decided they are not going to pay.
Some people would say put them in jail until their debt to society is paid back.
While that would probably be a deterrent, it would further increase costs for the government.
While jail is an option for punishment, it is not an option for collection. However, government can do some things to ensure they collect the fees.
First, the vehicle the driver was using, unless it was stolen, should be impounded and either sold or auctioned off to help pay for the debt. These people should not be able to get a vehicle.
The onus should be on the person who loans the car to ensure that driver has a valid licence before lending the car to them.
This would help keep these people off the road from the start. Second, there should be a community service requirement. They should have to work off the debt to better the community.
They could clean ditches, paint buildings and other services. I know there is a cost to this program. However, there would be direct benefit to the community as well.
Thirdly, government should garnishee wages.
To be a successful deterrent, they must take a tough stance on this.
Finally, ensure that all benefits like tax refunds, Canada Pension Plan benefits or any other government benefits are taken and used to pay the fines.
Government needs to start getting tough with people who owe fines of this nature.
They have the means to collect this money and must ensure they do so.
If not, then issuing tickets and fines are a pointless waste of time.
Jamie Warren is a native of Pasadena living in St. John’s. He is a member of The Western Star’s Community Editorial Board.