The National Post
Thursday, June 24, 1999

Halifax uses humiliation to collect outstanding fines

by Jonathan Gatehouse

Maritime scofflaws take note.

Halifax is using a tried and true tactic from its historic past to crack down on drivers who neglect to pay their parking tickets -- public humiliation.

While the meter maids haven't been given the keys to the stocks down at the waterfront quite yet, civic officials have started to make comprehensive lists of outstanding parking debtors' names, addresses and amounts owed available to the local media.

The plan, dubbed "Operation No Free Parking", aims to shame the city's worst motoring malefactors into paying their dues to society when nasty notices and threats of legal action have failed.

"It's not like this is the first contact these people have had from us", Cathie Osborne of the regional municipality's general revenue department said yesterday. "If you had received 148 notices about your unpaid fines you think you might do something about it."

Phase one of the project is targeting 99 people who have more than 70 outstanding parking tickets each. Phase two will concentrate on the more than 700 people who have racked up between 30 and 70 unpaid fines.

The municipality estimates that it is owed more than $4.2-million for parking infractions, Ms. Osborne said.

Police are also delivering summonses to the parking debtors, who face the choice of making an arrangement to settle their bill or pleading their case before a judge.

"Seventy per cent of the people who get parking tickets in Halifax pay", said Ms. Osborne. "We can't ignore the other 30%. That's just not fair."

David Henry, the owner of a downtown Halifax cafe and bar, found his name in a local paper this week for having racked up 174 tickets and outstanding fines totalling $2,610, and he's not happy about it.

"Everyone I know is laughing at me", he said yesterday.

Mr. Henry said overzealous parking officers and unrealistic parking regulations are driving Haligonians and tourists away from the downtown core.

"They come in for a quick cup of coffee or one beer and they get a $15 ticket", he said.

Kathryn London, who has managed to collect 142 tickets worth $2,190, has similar complaints.

"I think they're a little too vigilant", said the telephone company communications manager. "If you're five minutes over, you always get a ticket."

Ms. London, however, said the public castigation has taught her a lesson. "I'm dedicated to monthly parking now."

Copyright © 1999 by The National Post. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.