It’s amazing how something as obvious as photo radar becomes muddied by partisan politics. Speed kills; photo radar, used properly, makes people slow down. But politics is never simple.
The Southern Interior Local Government Association, headed up by Kamloops City councillor Marg Spina, wants photo radar in school zones.
This raises the hackles of those convinced that photo radar in any form is “a cash grab,” a label first applied by Gordon Campbell in 2001 when he removed it from B.C.’s highways.
He’d just been elected, you see, and photo radar was an NDP program.
During this year’s provincial election campaign, Campbell’s successor Christy Clark assured voters there would be no return to photo radar. “It was a tax grab,” she said, borrowing from Campbell.
B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins and Jane Sterk of the Greens agreed with Clark.
Flash forward to now, and Transportation Minister Todd Stone, without considering the clear distinction between radar cameras on highways versus putting them in school zones, says the government has “no appetite” for revisiting photo radar.
At least one Liberal MLA is on record in favour of photo radar. During May’s election campaign in Prince George, now-MLA Mike Morris made the important point that the choice is really between cameras and police, and police need help.
“I think we have to take advantage of some of these technologies,” said Morris, who spent
32 years with the RCMP.
Toronto police Chief Bill Blair wants to get photo radar back in Ontario (then-premier Mike
Harris, a Conservative, toasted it there in 1995) for the same reason: “. . . police officers are a very expensive resource to use for something which technology can do, and much more economically.”
The current debate over photo radar originates in Penticton.
After a car badly injured a school-crossing guard, the school board there removed guards.
In response, the City council passed a motion endorsing photo radar in school zones only.
That motion was then adopted by SILGA — an association of southern Interior B.C. cities — for debate at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Vancouver week after next.
Coincidentally, there’s a byelection Saturday for the Penticton mayoralty (incumbent Dan Ashton was elected as a Liberal MLA in May) and a councillor named Garry Litke, who wants the job, is leading the cameras-in-school-zones charge. Ashton, when he was still mayor, opposed the motion, calling photo radar — wait for it — a “cash grab.”
So, photo radar is driven by politics as much today as it was at the turn of the century.
Statistics, if you believe in them, tell a clear story — while photo radar was in play between 1995 and 2001, B.C. road deaths dropped. After photo radar was dumped, the numbers climbed.
Do kids get killed in school zones? One was hit and killed in a Toronto school zone Tuesday, the first day of school. The Penticton-SILGA proposal is about measured use of photo radar as one tool to reduce the danger to crossing guards and school kids.
If signs were posted in school zones announcing the presence of a photo radar camera, how could that be called a tax grab?
I’d call it good thinking.