Between 2016 and 2017 the province of Alberta generated $220 million from photo radar programs in 27 municipalities in the province. Edmonton topped the list with $50.8 and Calgary followed at $38.1 million.
According to the Calgary Police Service 15 per cent of the money is given to victim services, more than 16 per cent goes to the provincial government and the rest goes to the municipality. If a late payment is paid on the ticket, the province also receives the surcharge amount.
Cochrane and Rocky View County do not operate a photo radar program. Any desires to take part in the cash cow will have to be put on hold as the UCP government has put a temporary freeze on the program starting Dec. 1, 2019. Municipalities and police agencies will not be able to install new or upgraded photo radar devices or deploy existing photo radar equipment to new locations.
The freeze stems from more than a year ago when the then-NDP government employed an independent, third-party review of the program. The results were released in September of last year and determined that photo radar operations in the province showed only a marginal contribution to traffic safety. This despite the province having the highest number of photo radar devices - per capita - compared to other provinces.
Our province has had a long and divided history with the program. The first units were installed in 1988. The intent of the program was to increase safety on Alberta’s roadways. The review found that better data collection and reporting requirements are needed to ensure the program is used to maximize safety, not revenue.
Ric McIver, Minister of Transportation, said the province’s goal is to ensure photo radar is used to increase public safety, not to generate “backdoor tax revenue”. Premier Jason Kenney criticisized the program last year and also made reference to the denounced “backdoor tax revenue”.
Backdoor tax revenue isn’t a bad thing though, is it?
Speeding is dangerous, against the law, and puts others in danger. It’s understandable that the program isn’t wholly intended to be a cash cow, but it’s clear the milk is there for the taking. Anyone could argue that if you can’t afford the ticket, then don’t speed.
The UCP government delivered an auterisity laden budget in late October. School boards across the province are seeing budget shortfalls and facing layoffs. Last week, Alberta Health Services announced a massive downsizing that could result in cutting more than 750 front-line nurses. The cuts will continue as the public sector grapples with less.
Alberta is still the only province without a provincial sales tax. Our bread and butter, oil and gas, isn’t prominent on the menu anymore. We can’t get our biggest money making product to market and oil companies are leaving our province to do business in Texas. Albertans are moving to Texas and elsewhere where they can find viable employment.
Perhaps it’s time that Kenney and his crew see photo radar’s “back door revenue” as an opportunity and rebrand the program as the cash cow it already is. We could really use the $220 million right now. Just sayin’.