Ontario to bring back eye in the sky

Latest effort to crackdown on speeders is just a way to get around reintroducing photo-radar system, critics say

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

TORONTO The Ontario government is reintroducing airplane patrols of the province's highways to crack down on speeding drivers. But critics say this is just a way to get around bringing back the much-reviled photo radar system the province scrapped back in 1995.

Premier Dalton McGuinty announced yesterday that the government is providing the Ontario Provincial Police with $2-million for an airplane equipped with high-tech surveillance equipment and to put 55 more officers on the roads to fight dangerous driving.

OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino has been asking for a plane so that police officers can spot speeding drivers the way they did before their air force was grounded in 1981 as a cost-cutting measure.

That won't happen this time, Mr. McGuinty vowed.

"We can't afford not to do it, given the extent of dangerous speeding on our roads," he said.

The plane is among a flurry of announcements Mr. McGuinty has made in recent days as he prepares for the Oct. 10 provincial election.

Peter Kormos, New Democratic member of the legislature, said the Premier was giving in to pressure from Commissioner Fantino, who has said that speed was involved in one quarter of traffic fatalities. He unsuccessfully lobbied for a helicopter when he was Toronto police chief.

"Fantino wanted a plane. Dalton McGuinty got him one," Mr. Kormos said. "It's the eye in the sky. The plane is photo radar with wings."

Mr. Kormos questioned how effectively police could monitor the province's highways with just one aircraft. "One plane is going to be hard pressed to deal with thousands of kilometres of heavily travelled highway, so let's not try to pretend that this is any sort of panacea," he said.

Commissioner Fantino said the OPP will use the plane mainly in provincial "hot spots." He said the focus will be on dangerous drivers but not exclusively "high milers."

New Democrat Leader Howard Hampton has called for the reintroduction of photo radar. Former NDP premier Bob Rae launched a photo-radar system in the province in 1994. More than 240,000 tickets were handed out, with fines totalling more than $16-million. But the venture was scrapped the next year by the Progressive Conservatives under Mike Harris, who said it did little to reduce speeding. The McGuinty government abandoned the idea of reintroducing the program in 2004.

Advocates, including the Canada Safety Council, argue that photo radar helps prevent crashes and injuries. But critics question its effectiveness because drivers are not pulled over, and there are no demerit points, so insurance rates are unaffected. Most photo-radar systems employ a speed gun that trips a camera when an object moves past it at above a set speed. Tickets are issued to the car's owner, not the driver at the time of the alleged speeding.



Our commentary in the Globe and Mail

August 15, 2007

Ottawa Mens Centre.com, from Ottawa, Canada) wrote: Julian Fantino wants an addition to his Air Force at the cost of millions of dollars in capital investment. Back in 1988 I recall doing airborne highway patrol for the RCMP, the cost, $150 per hour to rent a Cessna 172 pilot included and one police officer on board with a clipboard, a stopwatch and a radio. Usually there was one or more police cars to intercept on the ground. Typically we never waited more than 10 minutes for serious speeder to show up. For almost every hour of flight time there was one speeder doing around 160 kilometers an hour. The fines issued were thousands of dollars per hour and the white speed lines painted on rarely used roads had the potential to generate millions of dollars over the years. Julian Fantino has a long history of seeking personal publicity and political point scoring not to mention finding innovative ways of soaking up ever increasing amounts of pubic money all in the name of law and order which is again used to build up a piggy bank and army of increasing political support that is deposited on an ever increasing revolving wheel destined to become only bigger larger and more powerful until the public wakes up to the hidden nightmare and his personal potential to gain power based on power rather than political merit. www.OttawaMensCentre.com 613-797-3237