City of Ottawa forgives $2.6M in decades-old parking fines

The City of Ottawa is forgiving 71,835 outstanding parking tickets from before 2001. (Ashley Burke/CBC - image credit)
The City of Ottawa is forgiving 71,835 outstanding parking tickets from before 2001. (Ashley Burke/CBC - image credit)

The City of Ottawa is giving up on collecting outstanding parking tickets issued before amalgamation in 2001.

The writeoff will forgive 71,835 outstanding parking tickets dating back to 1989, according to a report from deputy city treasurer Joseph Muhuni tabled Tuesday to the city's finance and corporate services committee.

The total amount being forgiven is more than $2.6 million.

The tickets were issued in the former municipalities of Cumberland, Osgoode, Gloucester, Vanier, Nepean, Ottawa, Goulbourn, Kanata and the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton. These nine were among the 11 municipalities amalgamated into the single City of Ottawa in 2001.

"Staff have exhausted all collection options," the report reads. "[The deputy treasurer] has determined these to be uncollectible and ceased all collections activities."

There are several criteria for determining if an account is uncollectible, Munihi told CBC News in an interview. In some cases, the city doesn't have sufficient information to collect on the debt or the person is dead.

"Really, what it came down to is: can we collect on these receivables and have we been successful based on the tools that are available to us and should we continue to invest further efforts into these items or not?" he said.

The amount being written off represents less than five per cent of the $54 million in total parking fees owed to the city as of December 2023. The city recorded $25.2 million in parking revenue last year.

Ontario parking infractions that remain unpaid are put into default with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. Vehicle owners are denied renewal of their licence plates until they pay all infractions tied to their licence plates.

While a municipality may cease collecting on an account, the offence may remain under the Provincial Offences Act.

"These offences, as much as a municipality may cease collections on them, they never really go away," Muhuni said. "The province always has the prerogative to resurrect any of these at any point in time and seek further collection measures if they so wish."

The city also decided to forgo collecting on 66 other cases for things like residential and commercial rents or damage to city property, totalling close to $700,000.

Additionally, the city is ceasing collecting efforts on more than 500 provincial or municipal infractions older than 1998, totalling close to $500,000. These could include Highway Traffic Act charges, municipal bylaw charges or other offences under provincial legislation.

When the city can't collect on a debt in the first six months, it refers collection efforts to a private debt collection agency.

In January, the city hired a new debt collection agency, Financial Debt Recovery, to handle old City of Ottawa parking fines, resulting in some people seeing dips on their credit scores for fines as old as 2003.

Muhuni said the tickets being voided in the latest report are not part of the tickets moved to Financial Debt Recovery to pursue.