Commentary – Doing my bit for deficit reduction

Joe McWilliams

Westlock Cops!
That’s the name of a song written years ago by former Slave Lake resident Arif Ansari. He had a couple of encounters with the RCMP traffic patrollers on Hwy. 2 or Hwy. 44. I thought it was kind of funny and wasn’t very sympathetic, if I remember correctly. They’ve got a job to do, etc. etc. Plus, I’ve been driving those roads for decades and never had a problem.
Until now!
It is interesting to note how, after receiving a speeding ticket, you become more aware of how fast you are actually going. Not that ignorance of your speed is any kind of excuse, but when I came around the corner onto that straight stretch north of Flatbush, I had no idea I was going 21 km/hr over the limit. Suddenly, in the approaching lane there was an RCMP vehicle, which I only noticed when its emergency lights came on. In the rearview mirror I saw it do a quick turn and head in my direction.
“%$$#@!” I might have said, under my breath.
OK, lesson learned! Pay attention! It’s easy to get into a trance-like state when you’re driving!
It’s also easy – far too easy, apparently – to be distracted. People generally aren’t taking seriously how risky that is. Just because you get away with something 100 times doesn’t mean it’s going to be any easier to deal with the consequences on the 101st.
“Oops! I didn’t see you there, sonny! Where did you come from?”
Deep Purple (the rock band) weren’t kidding when they sang, ‘Oooh, it’s a killing machine. . .”
But having now contributed $183 to the provincial coffers, I’ve started wondering what happens to all that speeding ticket revenue. Presumably, the Province gets the lion’s share of it. That’s the RCMP understanding, when it comes to provincial highways. Whoever pays for the upkeep of the road gets the ticket money.
That means, or should mean, that the M.D.s and counties get the revenue for tickets on their own roads. But the M.D. of Lesser Slave River senior peace officer was telling council the other day that as far as he can tell, the M.D. isn’t getting as much ticket revenue back from the province as it should be.
He used a figure of $100,000 for demonstration purposes. Twenty per cent off the top goes into a victims’ fund. Of the remaining $80,000, according to a formula that is apparently on paper somewhere, the municipality should be getting 60 per cent, or $48,000.
Except it isn’t happening, and hasn’t been for years. We’re getting about 25 per cent, says Paul Mulholland, instead of that 60 per cent.
What’s happening in the case of tickets written by RCMP officers is another matter. Mulholland figures how much of the money comes back to municipalities depends on how the tickets are coded, and he has no information on that.Even the 40 per cent provincial share is something new, instituted in 2020.
Brooks mayor Barry Morishita is on the record as calling it “downloading” and saying either taxes would have to be raised or peace officers laid off to make up for it.
But according to what Mulholland told M.D. council, it’s even worse than that.
It’s not something I ever paid much attention to.
But now that I’m a contributor to the Government of Alberta’s fine revenue stream, I’d like some answers.

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