Ticket cancelling manual released

Once-secret guidelines explain possible escapes from that parking fine

June 8, 2010


Robyn Doolittle Urban Affairs Reporter

If you are old, have a medical condition and are religious you have a good chance of beating a parking ticket in Toronto.

The excuses that work with bureaucrats were made public Tuesday night when city council voted to release the holy grail of how-tos: the Parking Ticket Cancellation Guidelines.

According to the previously confidential report, city staff can cancel tickets for drivers on compassionate grounds, especially if they live more than 100 kilometres from Toronto.

Other potentially acceptable excuses are that the driver was attending worship, confused over which side of the street to park, or got multiple tickets for the same offence in a 3-hour window.

The 18-page report details exemptions for fast-food delivery, nursing agencies, tour buses, taxicabs, disabled drivers and delivery vehicles, among others.

Like police, fire and ambulance services, city councillors on “city business” can have tickets cancelled for virtually any infraction.

So why did city council make public some of its deepest secrets?

“Myself and Councillor Moscoe have been trying to get it released for a long time, and staff have constantly been saying ‘It’s confidential, it’s confidential, it’s confidential,” said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.

He asked city solicitor Anna Kinastowski to explain why.

The rationale, she said, was that the guidelines “were drafted in a manner that makes them perhaps not quite understandable to average members of the public. And they can be used against the city.” Kinastowski said there could be litigation and revenue concerns.

Minnan-Wong said these arguments were “very weak.”

“Here a group of bureaucrats have set up these secret rules that nobody knows about,” he said. “I think that there is a risk that once some of these rules get out that they may be open to abuse, and if that’s the case there has to be some consideration whether those rules should be applied.”

Bureaucrats are encouraged to use “sound judgment and problem solving skills” when evaluating excuses. A driver’s previous ticket history is almost always a factor when deciding whether to cancel a ticket.

Ignorance can be bliss when it comes to parking tickets.

You can escape a fine if you can convince staff you were unaware of the parking rules, or “unusual circumstances” kept you from putting cash in the meter.

Council voted 23-8 in favour of releasing the document and having the issue guidelines reviewed by committee. In the meantime, the full list is online at the City of Toronto website.

During the council meeting, Moscoe said the current system wastes time and money.

“Taking a ticket to court that is going to lose automatically puts the whole system in a bad light and it wastes a whole lot of police officer time, staff time and prosecution time,” he said.

“It makes no sense to allow all the tickets that are automatically written for whatever reason to go to court when you know there’s a whole block of them that are going to lose.”

Top 5 parking ticket excuses

1. Members of a congregation attending worship can get a ticket cancelled by getting a letter from a clergy person.

2. Under a courtesy exemption, drivers who can convince staff they were tagged because of medical reasons, age, unusual circumstances, or ignorance of the bylaw — particularly those who live more than 100 kilometres out of the city — might get off.

3. Those parking on streets where authorized parking alternates from side to side can argue they were confused about the schedule. A grace period for “change-over dates” is allowed.

4. Security companies, utility vehicles, taxis and limos, delivery trucks and fast food delivery drivers can all appeal to have tickets cancelled if they can prove they were on business at the time of the tag.

5. If you’re ticketed more than once in 3 hours for the same reason — such as an unpaid meter — you can ask to have subsequent tickets cancelled if you pay the first

With files from Paul Moloney