Campbell makes it clear: No photo radar
Vancouver's mayor agrees to let the program die
Craig McInnes and Lori Culbert Vancouver Sun
VICTORIA -- The time for talk is over, premier-elect Gordon Campbell said Tuesday. Photo radar is dead.
"We intend to keep our commitment to British Columbians. Photo radar is going to be gone. It's going to be gone for the entire province of British Columbia."
Campbell was responding to calls from several mayors and senior police officers that he reconsider his long-time promise to kill the controversial program within his first 90 days of being elected.
Campbell said he has no intention of turning photo radar into a broken election promise.
"We've just come through an election campaign where we were very clear that we were going to remove it. That was time for the debate and the discussion," Campbell said Tuesday.
He said he phoned Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen's office on Monday to make it clear there would be no going back.
"I contacted the office yesterday and said I wanted them all to understand we intended to maintain our commitments," he said.
Owen, who on the weekend became the first mayor to call for keeping the program, said he has not received a message from Campbell.
However, Owen said he now accepts that photo radar will be killed at the provincial level, and will no longer investigate opportunities for his municipality to run it independently.
"I thought a few days ago that we should take a hard look at it, but apparently there's some issues around it -- it requires a lot of personnel to run and it's expensive and it's a provincial decision. [The Liberals] have clearly defined their position and I accept that," Owen said.
He denied his about-face wascaused by pressure from his friend Campbell.
"I haven't talked to him or any other MLA ... I've had no direct conversation with anybody [from the Liberals]," said Owen, who does not believe the issue will create a rift between him and the premier-elect.
Vancouver police chief Terry Blythe has indicated he would support the continuation of photo radar in B.C.'s largest city, but Owen said he will tell Blythe that there are other speed-enforcement measures to pursue instead. That includes more speed bumps, stricter traffic penalties, stepped-up enforcement, improved speed-limit signs, and extra red-light cameras.
Photo radar has support from the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, which is still holding out hope it can change Campbell's mind about scrapping the program, said president Jim Cessford.
"Would he compromise? I don't know," said Cessford, Delta's police chief.
"I think that if we could talk about how we could deploy photo radar, as one example, and how we could come up with a traffic safety plan that's geared to make our highways safer, I think that [Campbell] would be quite open to that."
Cessford has asked for a meeting with Campbell, and is disappointed police weren't consulted before the Liberals decided to scrap the program.
"The bottom line is, if we scrub photo radar does that mean that we're condoning speeding?"
After Owen's pro-photo radar comments on the weekend, several Vancouver- and Victoria-area police officials and mayors told the media they would support trying to run the program at the municipal level.
But Jim Abram, president of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, said approval for the controversial program is almost drawn along urban/rural lines: big-city mayors tend to back it, while those from the country tend not to.
He said there is little the supportive mayors can do now to try to keep photo radar operating.
"The program, as I understand it, is a provincial program, and if the province decides to cancel it, then it's gone," Abram said.
While the UBCM hasn't taken a position on photo radar, Abram, regional director for the Comox Strathcona Regional District, said he personally likes the Liberals' move to shelve it.
"I'm glad to see it go. I think it is a situation that has taken resources away from policing ... and, personally, I think it's been seen by most people in the province as a cash cow," he said.
Abram believes the program may help reduce speeding, but complains vans are put in sneaky places to catch a maximum number of speeders and not in high-risk areas to increase safety.
Campbell said eliminating photo radar vans will not make the streets less safe.
"It doesn't work, it's a cash grab. It hasn't increased safety on the streets of British Columbia."
Campbell said he was not surprised to hear opposition to scrapping photo radar but he was surprised at the timing.
"Maybe people are seeing dollar signs in their eyes. You wonder when people are suggesting we break one commitment what other commitments they want us to break," he said.
"I haven't noticed the mayors suggesting we might want to break the commitment to give 75 per cent of all traffic fines to local communities."
Campbell said photo radar will be killed as soon as possible.