Repeat-offender lane blockers with out-of-province plates will be towed if they break the traffic rules.

KEITH BEATY / TORONTO STAR Mayor John Tory, seen here during a Jan. 22 council meeting, wants to crack down on out-of-province parking offenders. .

Mayor John Tory, seen here during a Jan. 22 council meeting, wants to crack down on out-of-province parking offenders. .

Mayor John Tory is extending his tough take on lane blocking and illegal parking to out-of-towners by threatening to tow habitual offenders with out-of-province licence plates.

The hope is that the inconvenience and $200-plus towing charge will be “a significant deterrent” to the owners of vehicles licensed outside Ontario, who often flout the traffic rules.

“Many of us have seen these trucks that have sheaves of parking tickets right on the windshield. They don’t even bother to take them off because they can ignore them. If they blow them off, it’s no big deal because they don’t have to pay attention to them. Now they do,” Tory told reporters at city hall on Monday.

Although the city has no legal means to compel out-of-province drivers to pay their fines, the mayor says the towing crackdown will be a financial benefit. Toronto could clear another $1 million to $2 million a year as people pay up sooner to avoid the risk of accumulating the three or more unpaid tickets within a 120-day period that will make them a towing target, he said.

The zero-tolerance policy kicks in next month after a police education period, said Tory.

In November, parking enforcement officials gained access on their hand-held devices to a database that shows which vehicles are repeat offenders. That database is updated about once every five minutes, said Toronto manager of parking operations Anthony Fabrizi.

Of the 2.5 million traffic tickets issued annually in Toronto, between 100,000 and 120,000 are to out-of-province vehicles. While 85 per cent of Toronto residents pay their fines, only 15 per cent of out-of-province offenders pay up.

But the city doesn’t want to be overly zealous in its pursuit of out-of-town violations because it doesn’t want to drive away business. Many visitors are spending between $1,000 and $1,500 on food, accommodation and entertainment to stay here for a weekend, said Fabrizi.

“So from an economic and tourism perspective, we don’t want to target single offenders,” he said.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said the province wants to help the city collect money owed by traffic scofflaws.

“We made a commitment that we were going to work on this with municipalities — it’s not just the City of Toronto,” she said.

“I know there are outstanding millions that could be retrieved. It is my intention that we will make it possible for those monies to be retrieved,” said Wynne.

Tory has made fighting gridlock the centrepiece of his new administration. This month, the city stepped up its enforcement of vehicles that block traffic during rush hours on the city’s major arteries. Since that campaign began, 962 vehicles have been towed and 5,856 tickets issued.

Although there’s no hard data yet on whether traffic movement has really improved, anecdotal evidence suggests the zero-tolerance policy is working, the mayor reported Monday.

The new out-of-province plate crackdown will go into effect next month, following a police education period.

With files from Robert Benzie

Source: Toronto Star