Earlier this month I called BC’s Justice Reform Initiative ‘political theatre’ if Bill 44 and 52 passed before the government received Geoffrey Cowper’s final report. My opinion, unfortunately, has fallen on deafened ears as these bills have now gone through Committee and passed Third Reading.
Fortunatly for the those British Columbians unhappy that their right to a fair trial is being taken away when faced with a traffic dispute, you can point to MLA Kathy Corrigan’s comments from the House floor when challenging the Constitutionality of this legislation, where she declares that “The scheme would not survive a Charter challenge as so many personal rights and freedoms are being removed under the legislation“. (Click here for the link and scroll down to 1930 for the MLA’s comments).
Cynicism is an undesirable lens to view matters through but sometimes it is appropriate. Unfortunately, some of the recent Bills introduced this week in the BC Legislature make it very difficult to view BC’s Justice Reform Initiative in any other way.
You may recall earlier this year the Government made a bold presentation highlighting perceived shortcomings in BC’s Justice System. The Government announced that a Justice Review would be undertaken to “identify actions that government, the judiciary, the legal profession, police and others can take to give British Columbians more timely and effective justice services“
The Government appointed Mr. Cowper to head this review and he was tasked to “report to government as he develops recommendations around engagement of key institutions and stakeholders. Government will provide periodic updates in response to his recommendations and he will make his final report to government by July 2012.”
It is now early May. We are two months away from Mr. Cowper’s “final report“. Despite this, the Government has introduced two Bills which have passed second reading seeking to drastically overhaul BC’s civil justice and traffic court system. Specifically I’m referring to Bill 52 and 44. I discussed these here and here.
If the Review’s final recommendations are not in yet how can laws seeking massive overhaul to BC’s civil and regulatory justice system be introduced? If these Bills pass Third Reading in the Spring Session, it appears the Justice Review is mere political theatre. If not, and the Government actually takes Mr. Cowper’s findings into consideration before passing these laws, then I will admit to being too quick in playing the cynicism card.
Remember the political fallout several months back when ICBC proposed to increase insurance premiums based on a single driving violation? The Government called ICBC’s proposal “unfair” and “not appropriate”. Something must have changed since then because the Government has now introduced a Bill to give ICBC the power to levy “additional premiums” that ICBC considers appropriate based on driving point penalties.
In the whirlwind of new Government legislation recently introduced, Bill 52 received second reading this week. This legislation seeks to drastically overhaul BC’s motor vehicle offense ticketing dispute system by taking these matters away from our Courts and instead creating administrative tribunals to process disputes.
In addition to the above, the Bill seeks to amend Section 34 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Actas follows:
13 Section 34 (1.1) is amended
(a) by adding the following paragraphs:
(d.1) adopt or establish a driver assessment point system classifying drivers according to the number, nature and kind of contraventions of driving enactments under the Motor Vehicle Act;
(d.2) in respect of a driver assessment point system adopted or established in accordance with paragraph (d.1), adopting or establishing a method by which point penalties may be converted or compared to driver assessment points for the purposes of assessing and levying basic or additional premiums under the plan against drivers at the times and under the terms and conditions the corporation considers appropriate; , and
(b) by repealing paragraph (e) and substituting the following:
(e) according to any system of classifying drivers adopted under paragraph (c), a point penalty system adopted or established under paragraph (d) or a driver assessment point system adopted or established under paragraph (d.1), assess and levy basic or additional premiums under the plan against drivers at the times and under the terms and conditions the corporation considers appropriate.
In short, this law will give ICBC the power to increase premiums “under the terms and conditions (ICBC) considers appropriate“. This legislation leaves no checks and balances to ensure that what the Government recently called unfair does not become the law of the land.
While the Bill’s goal of freeing up police and judicial resources is worthwhile, the devil’s in the details. As a practical matter this is what the Bill will accomplish:
1. If a “driving enforcement officer” (ie – a police officer) doesn’t like your driving you receive a “driving notice” (ie – a ticket)
2. You lose your right to judicial challenge, instead you are now called a “disputant” and must place your challenge with a newly minted “Driving Notice Review Board“. Of note, you won’t have the right to cross-examine your accuser at your “resolution conference“.
3. If/when you lose your dispute before the Board you are issued a “monetary penalty“
4. If you cant afford to pay the penalty ICBC can refuse to issue you a licence
5. Last but not least ICBC will issue you “point penalties” and you will then pay higher insurance premiums based on whatever system ICBC develops.
When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.
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