Provincial legislation to eliminate a program allowing people to work off parking- and traffic-ticket fines isn’t sitting well with some non-profit organizations and volunteers.
The bill, which is set to take effect July 1, will exclude parking and traffic tickets from the fine option program.
“The idea of taking away a program like this and reducing the community involvement of individuals would be a shame,” Deryk Ball, a volunteer at the Saskatoon Food Bank, said.
Ball volunteers to work off his tickets, instead of paying the fines. Sorting through food bank submissions is better than sorting through his pocketbook, he said.
“I know, for myself, not having gainful employment at the time of my fine repayment, this was a really great option for me.”
The province expects the move to save between $160,000 and $220,000 per year, but at least one group, the John Howard Society, is calling for the legislation to be delayed.
The society, which advocates for criminal offenders, has written a letter to Justice Minister and Attorney General Gordon Wyant calling for the province to consult stakeholders and to ensure the legislation accommodates people with low or fixed incomes.
More than 52,000 community service hours, to pay off traffic and parking tickets, were logged in Saskatoon last year through the John Howard Society. Regina recorded more than 27,000 hours, according to the advocacy group.
About 70 per cent of fines registered through the fine option program go through the John Howard group, the province says. The total number of community service hours issued in the 2015-16 year was just less than 150,000, but only about 65,000 hours were completed in full.
Officials with the Saskatoon Food Bank and the Friendship Inn both expect the legislation to hit their groups hard.
The food bank logs more than 6,000 community service hours each year through the fine option program, and the Friendship Inn expects the bill could add $200,000 to its annual operations.
“Up to 10 people from the John Howard Society program come to the Friendship Inn every day to help us prepare meals and to help us clean up,” Sandra Stack, the Friendship Inn’s executive director, said. “This is 10 extra bodies that we have every day in our kitchen that we aren’t going to have.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said regulations to allow people in financial trouble to use the fine option program are being developed.
Some offenders may also request more time to pay their tickets, he added.
--- based on reports by Matt Young and Mark Villani