It was one of a half-dozen bills introduced all at once last month and by the time it came up for debate, the government had imposed time limits, so it got scarcely 30 minutes' attention.
But Bill 52, the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act No. 2, will have a big impact on how you go about fighting traffic tickets. Instead of going to court, you'll argue with the superintendent of motor vehicles over the phone. Then carry on the dispute in front of a new board.
It's part of a continuing drive to strip cases out of the clogged courts and deal with disputes in administrative forums.
Attorney General Shirley Bond was pleased to tell the legislature "it reduces the administrative burdens experienced by members of the public ... by allowing them to pay or dispute the matter online."
But if you think you can tweet your way out of a speeding ticket, think again. Among the administrative burdens being eased are the rights to cross-examine the police officer, examine evidence and make your case before a judge.
The concept was mentioned briefly in the throne speech last fall, but NDP critic Kathy Corrigan said "99.9 per cent of British Columbians have no idea [this] is coming down the pike."
The big change is that after getting a ticket, for any number of offences to be detailed later on, drivers will take part in a "resolution conference." It will be conducted via phone or email with the superintendent of motor vehicles. It will be preceded by a pre-hearing conference to go over details of the case.
There's not much doubt the conference is designed to extract a confession. The superintendent can dismiss the driving notice (the word "ticket" will become obsolete, because the new e-system will be paperless). But he can also offer to reduce the fine or give more time to pay.
If the driving notice is still unresolved after that, the case will go to the "driving notice review board."
With a pre-hearing conference, a resolution conference and a driving notice review board, complete with staff, it looks like easing the burden on the court system is going to cost some money.
Corrigan called it a multi-stage, cumbersome process that will create a parallel bureaucracy. And the burden of proof will change from beyond a reasonable doubt to the balance of probabilities, she said.
She talked to a number of defence lawyers who think police will get sloppy when they don't have to appear in person and testify under oath.
But Bond said the process will be more stringent, since police won't have to rely on their memory for months-old details. And police disclosure isn't actually required now, but will be under the new system.
Just So You Know: Corrigan got barely halfway through the bill before she ran out of time and the chair cut her off.
But there's a good chance the legislature isn't through with this idea. Just before the debate, the rewrite of the administrative approach to impaired driving was examined in the house.
A judge rejected key aspects of that two-year-old regime on grounds they were unconstitutional. The government responded by changing it so that breath-test readings can be challenged. As well, the lowest of two readings will be the operative one.
The latest change for driving offences follows the same pattern as the impaired-driving regime — administrative penalties imposed outside of court.
If it follows the same route, it will be challenged on constitutional grounds as soon as it comes into effect. Corrigan said it will likely fail.
So it will eventually come back before the legislature, where the Opposition can pick up where it was cut off.
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