The change also highlights a lack of consistency with how municipalities deal with emergency vehicles that run red lights.
Greg Sage, chief of paramedic services for the region, said the new policy was implemented in October, with the intention to take the ticket money out of the driving paramedic’s pay. This would only happen after an investigation into the offence.
The region previously didn’t have a policy and had been working on one for a number of years, he added.
But the union representing Halton paramedics has contested the plan, said OPSEU Local 207 president Michael Lawson.
He argues the region would have to take the paramedic to court and couldn’t just dock pay, he said.
Under the Highway Traffic Act emergency vehicles are allowed to go through red lights, but only if they have lights and sirens flashing and if they come to a complete stop first.
Hamilton has 13 red light camera locations. There are 12 spread across Halton Region. A ticket costs $325 and is sent to the vehicle owner — which in the case of an emergency vehicle is the city or police service.
Lawson now questions whether Halton’s new policy will ever be enforced. He also wonders why emergency vehicles can’t be completely exempt.
Sage said there have been no tickets issued since the policy changed this fall.
“We haven’t had any occurrences, it hasn’t been tested,” he said.
However, regardless of the union’s concerns, the region is not considering changing the policy, Sage added.
There is a patchwork of different policies and practices for different services across Ontario.
In Hamilton, the city does not recoup the cost of tickets from paramedics or firefighters, said spokesperson Allison Jones.
It simply covers the cost and then provides “appropriate counselling and training to its employees who receive them,” she said.
Jones said the City of Hamilton has not considered fully exempting emergency vehicles because they’re not authorized to — the Highway Traffic Act is a provincial regulation.
Similarly, the Burlington Fire Department does not recoup ticket expenses from employees.
The department has no policy in place, said Chief Tony Bavota.
Police are also dealt with differently, as many services attempt to recoup money through discipline under the Police Services Act.
“Officers are held responsible for red light camera infraction fines,” said Hamilton police spokesperson Catherine Martin.
The Hamilton Police Service penalizes an officer six hours pay for a first offence, 12 hours for a second and 24 hours or a Police Services Act hearing for a third, she said.
The discipline is a bit of a sore spot among some officers.
Hamilton Police Association president Clint Twolan said the issue is there is no discretion.
It doesn’t matter how serious of an emergency the officer is headed toward, he said, adding that he worries about officers second guessing themselves while driving to emergencies.
He gives an example of one officer who was responding to a call where a woman had slit both her wrists and left the house. He was caught at a red light camera — he slowed, but did not fully stop at the intersection — but found the woman and saved her life.
In this case the officer’s supervisors fought on the officer’s behalf and his penalty was reduced, Twolan said.
Halton police also discipline officers six hours pay, said spokesperson Sgt. Chantal Corner.
The service has never had a repeat offender, but they would be penalized six hours again, she said.
Unlike in Hamilton, Halton do give consideration to ticketed officers.
“Consideration is given to the circumstances surrounding the incident, for example, what type of call they were on, weather conditions, officer safety,” she said.
Red light camera tickets issued to emergency services this year:
• Hamilton police: 24
• Hamilton paramedics: 7
• Hamilton fire: 10
• Halton paramedics: 4
• Halton police: 11
• Burlington fire: 1
Red light camera locations:
• Appleby Line and Mainway Drive, Burlington
• Brant Street and North Service Road, Burlington
• Guelph Line and Mountainside Drive/Davidson Court, Burlington
• Guelph Line and Upper Middle Road, Burlington
• 10 Side Road and Ninth Line, Halton Hills
• Trafalgar Road and 5 Side Road, Halton Hills
• Derry Road and James Snow Parkway, Milton
• Derry Road and Ontario Street, Milton
• Derry Road and Trafalgar Road, Milton
• Trafalgar Road and Leighland Avenue, Oakville
• Trafalgar Road and Upper Middle Road, Oakville
• Upper Middle Road and Oxford Avenue, Oakville
• Burlington Street East and Gage Avenue North
• Cannon Street East and Hughson Street North
• Cannon Street East and Kenilworth Avenue North
• Cannon Street West/York Boulevard and Hess Street North
• King Street East/West and Centennial Parkway South
• King Street West and Locke Street North/South
• Main Street East and Sanford Avenue South
• Main Street West and Bay Street South
• Main Street West and Dundurn Street South
• Paramount Drive and Mud Street West
• Stone Church Road East and Upper Wentworth Street
• Upper James Street and Brantdale Avenue
• Upper Sherman Avenue and Queensdale Avenue East
Source: The Hamilton Spectator