Proposed bill would bring photo radar to school zones, but PCs call it a 'cash grab'

Proposed bill would bring photo radar to school zones, but PCs call it a 'cash grab'

If you speed through a school zone, soon a camera could snap a photo of your license plate.

This week a special standing committee at Queen's Park is discussing proposed legislation known as the Safer School Zones Act. 

Bill 65 would allow municipalities to use photo radar, something local politicians have argued for to keep children safe; but critics call it a cash grab.

Newmarket Coun. Bob Kwapis spoke to the committee on Wednesday in favour of the bill.

He says the signage advising that there is speed enforcement in the area would send a strong message.

 'If you don't slow down, there will be consequences'

"Let motorists know, 'Hey, slow down, this is a very high risk area and if you don't slow down, there will be consequences to be paid.'"

Kwapis says while deaths and injuries would be part of statistics on collisions in school zones, he's also seen too many close calls, which don't get recorded.

The bill, introduced by Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, would allow municipalities to use an "automated speed enforcement system," which would include photo radar. The tool would not be mandated by the province, but would be a choice of each municipality to add in any school zones or designated "community safety zones."  

Bill 65 would also permit municipalities to lower speed limits below 50 kilometres per hour in some areas.

Toronto mayor John Tory had asked the province to allow this technology, which would require fewer police officers for speed enforcement and help trim the Toronto Police Service's $1 billion budget.

But the Ontario Progressive Conservatives call the move a cash grab.

"In typical Liberal fashion, the bill sounds great," said MPP Michael Harris, the transportation critic for the PCs. 

Ontario PCs worry photo radar will clock drivers on highways

He says he supports adding photo radar to school zones, but worries the bill could go much further, since defining a community safety zone is up to individual municipalities.

"They're now allowing photo radar to be rolled out right across Ontario highways, expressways and that's a cash grab. And that's why we're saying no," Harris said.

Bill 65 has so far passed two of the required three readings before it can become law.