Challenging a parking ticket in Yellowknife will likely soon mean a city-run hearing rather than a territorial court date.
The city plans to make the switch at the end of August. City Hall believes using its own dispute resolution process, and not the courts, will make things quicker and simpler, saving money and time.
At the moment, disputing a parking ticket involves going to territorial court. The new system is made possible by a recent change in territorial legislation.
The new process will be less formal and intimidating, economic development director Kerry Thistle told councillors on Monday, and will give the city more discretion “to attempt to resolve parking disputes in the early stages.”
Rather than weekly court sessions, the city anticipates bringing in an adjudicator – monthly, at most – to rule on disputed tickets (which will instead be known as “penalty notices”).
Thistle said the change will mean municipal enforcement officers and city staff spend less time pursuing tickets through the courts, while also freeing up some court time.
“We’re hoping people are more encouraged to pay their tickets on time because it should be an easier system,” she told councillors.
Territorial court staff, Thistle said, “have been anxiously awaiting this, one for court time and two for logistics, because it’s been quite cumbersome. Everybody is excited to see this finally come to fruition.”
If councillors approve the change – they appeared generally supportive on Monday – tickets would be issued under the existing court-based system until August 31, 2022, then under the new system from September 1.
Councillor Robin Williams asked what would happen under the new system if someone “flat-out refuses to pay,” even if an adjudicator finds they are liable.
“That’s the magical question,” said Thistle. “We’ve had much discussion about how to enforce collection.”
Thistle said the city’s initial plan will be to use the civil courts to enforce the rules. Towing vehicles will be an option. Discussions have also taken place with the territorial government that could see reactivation of an old system whereby outstanding parking fines must be cleared before registrations can be renewed.
“We can’t have a system where people think it doesn’t matter if they get convicted because nobody is coming after them,” Thistle said.
Referring to the prospect of some vehicles being towed, Williams said: “I’m sure disappearing cars will get compliance pretty quickly.”
Various southern jurisdictions already use a similar approach to parking tickets, councillors heard. The city expects a minimal impact on its budget.
Councillors are expected to formally approve the shift at a meeting on April 11.