The City of Vancouver wants to put the hammer down on scofflaws.
Nothing new, you say. What's new is the good folks at 12th and Cambie want to increase maximum fines from $2,000 to $10,000 for a whole variety of bylaws.
Forty-two of them, if my count is correct. It includes animal control, trees, parking, noise, health, graffiti, solid waste, untidy premises - essentially, a huge list of stuff that affects a whole lot of people.
A money grab, you say. Not according to a staff report from Brenda Prosken, the city's general manager of community services, who says bylaws are in place to provide for the health, safety and quality of life of residents.
"A maximum fine so low as to be simply the cost of doing business has the potential of leading to an increase in breaches of our bylaws, including the building, health and standards of maintenance bylaws," Prosken wrote. "A significant fine increase will reflect the city's position relating to bylaw compliance and will send a strong message to the public regarding the seriousness of bylaw offences."
This is not entirely a new move by the city. In 2009, city council increased the maximum fine to $10,000 for bylaws pertaining to fire regulations, protection of trees and street utilities.
Apparently, some scofflaws are getting the message.
According to the report, various holding companies who own and operate multiple apartment buildings were charged with several offences for breaching the fire bylaw.
The owners received a "substantive fine" from the courts on four of their buildings, the report said.
"As a result, the fire department reported that these buildings have improved vastly because the landlords have now put in place regular training programs for their building staff in conjunction with quality control measures to ensure their buildings meet fire safety requirements in compliance with the fire bylaw," the report said.
The city prosecutor also noted in the report she consistently hears from the presiding judicial justice or judge after a case concludes that the city's maximum bylaw fine is too low.
Any fines imposed by the courts go directly back to the city.
"Although the proposed amendments have the potential to increase fine revenues, it is hopeful that higher fines will encourage a higher rate of compliance resulting in lower number of charges and fines imposed," the report added.
If you think the proposed fines are too high or not punitive enough, then make sure to show up to city hall Jan. 15 at 6 p.m. for a public hearing on the proposed fine hikes.