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Ontario to bring back photo radar for school zones

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA - 

Photo radar could soon return to Ontario roads as the province prepares to allow municipalities to introduce the technology in school zones.

The Liberal government intends to introduce legislation in the next two weeks that would give municipalities the power to introduce automated speed enforcement technology, which takes pictures of the licence plates of speeding cars, in school zones and community safety zones.

Photo radar became a political football in Ontario in the 1990s after it was introduced by the NDP government, but it was killed by premier Mike Harris after the Progressive Conservatives won the 1995 election, in part on a pledge to get rid of the cameras.

Critics called it a cash grab and Premier Kathleen Wynne acknowledged Tuesday that revenue was a contentious aspect back then.

“This is where the photo radar debate went many, many years ago and I just want to be crystal clear that we are doing this a) because we know it will make it safer for kids...and b) because the municipalities have asked us to work with them and put in place the framework so they can make these changes,” she said.

Revenue from the fines issued to speeding drivers will stay with the municipalities, Wynne said.

The premier made the announcement in Ottawa, which is one of the municipalities that had been asking for such speed-enforcement tools. The city has seen about 150 people die on the streets of Ottawa between 2010 and 2014 and in many of those situations speed was a factor, Wynne said.

Mayor Jim Watson said speeding is an issue especially around schools.

“When people are speeding in school zones, it’s very dangerous,” he said. “It’s very disrespectful and it can have tragic consequences.”

The bill would also allow municipalities to create reduced-speed-limit zones and let them participate more easily in the red light camera program.

The city of Toronto had also asked the province to consider letting municipalities use technology — including photo radar — instead of police officers for traffic management, as Mayor John Tory looked for ways to cut the city’s $1-billion police budget.

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger sent a request in January to Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca that he reintroduce photo radar “as a tool for municipalities to use to improve road safety.”