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Alberta government further restricting use of photo radar

“These changes respond to public concerns requesting the elimination of ‘fishing holes’ or speed traps while maintaining high levels of safety standards,” said Minister of Transport Rajan Sawhney.

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Some details about the province’s ongoing review of photo radar were released Wednesday to ensure “photo radar technology is used primarily for traffic safety, not for revenue.”

The province changes to the program coming into effect in April 2022. Those changes include:

  • restrictions on photo radar use in transition zones and on residential roads with less than 50 km/h speed limits
  • restrictions do not apply to school, playground or construction zones
  • eliminating double ticketing within five minutes
  • mandating all photo radar enforcement vehicles be clearly visible
  • requiring rationale and data for sites to justify the use of photo radar

“We are taking action to tighten up the rules around photo radar,” said Minister of Transport Rajan Sawhney. “

“These changes respond to public concerns requesting the elimination of ‘fishing holes’ or speed traps while maintaining high levels of safety standards.

“Municipalities will be required to collect and provide data to support current and future site selection for photo radar.  This is all about enhancing safety on our roads.”

Municipalities have been given one year to enact the changes with the help and guidance of Alberta Transportation and the Alberta Justice and Solicitor General.

“Photo radar should only be used for traffic safety – not as a cash cow to squeeze extra money from Albertans,” said Kaycee Madu, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General.

“Our government has worked with police services and municipalities to implement changes that will ensure photo radar technology is used only to ensure our roads remain safe.”

AMA Vice President of Advocacy and Operations, Jeff Kasbrick, said AMA “supports the government’s new policy direction, as it will ensure photo radar’s use is transparent, informed by data and strictly about improving traffic safety, not generating revenue.”

In February of 2019, the province shared findings from an independent third-party review of photo radar operations in Alberta and found there was a “marginal contribution to traffic safety” and took steps to eliminate the use of the devices in certain circumstances.

According to a government press release, the review showed the current photo radar guidelines were not contributing to better traffic safety and needed to be “directly tied to safety” rather than revenue generation.

Then, in November 2019, the province put a temporary freeze on “new and expanded photo radar” use until December 1, 2021.

The freeze banned municipalities from installing new photo radar equipment, upgrading existing photo radar devices and adding new photo radar locations.

“Our goal is to ensure photo radar is used for safety, not to generate backdoor tax revenue,” said then Minister of Transportation, Ric McIver.

“Albertans are skeptical about the impact photo radar has on safety and we do not have useful data to analyze so we can make a decision.”

McIver made the point that although Alberta had “three times as many photo radar units per capita” compared to BC, the province’s roadways were not “meaningfully safer.”

Photo radar generated $203 million in revenue in the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

“Cities and towns have been using photo radar as another way to get in the wallets of taxpayers,” Kevin Lacey, Alberta director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation told the Western Standard, adding “forcing municipal governments to justify where photo radar is used is a great first step.”

“Photo radar is a tax grab that does nothing to promote public safety,” said Lacey suggesting the province do away with photo radar for good.

“Laws should be enforced by law enforcement officers, not computers. Today’s announcement putting more controls around the use of photo radar is an admission that cities and towns have abused its use.”

The freeze has now been extended until December 1, 2022, however, municipalities are still permitted to use conventional speed enforcement including manned radar and patrolling roadways within their boundaries.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter for the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

Melanie Risdon is a Calgary-based Reporter for the Western Standard. She has over 20 years experience in media at Global News, Rogers and Corus. mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Ben Wilson

    December 1, 2021 at 3:44 pm

    Dennis… great comments…. LOL.

    I believe ending this cash grab was supported by NDP and UCP. Wow…they Agree on something.

  2. Leslie Solar

    December 1, 2021 at 11:11 am

    Hey, Rick McIver…..nice shiny object you have there…..funny how you havent checked the traffic “data” before this—why are all the amber lights in calgary calibrated to be lit for 3 (yes, thats right–3) seconds before turning red? (To be fair, downtown, at LRT crossings, there is a timed countdown for 10 seconds prior to the 3 second amber)

    Could it be to have more charges for “running a red light”???

    Funny how that hasnt been dealt with before little Jason Kenney (almost?) destroyed your party? Over Covid bullshit. try booting Kenney. That will get you more brownie points with the public than this “too little, too late” move on photoradar that should have been dealt with aeons ago.

  3. Jerry Terpstra

    December 1, 2021 at 11:11 am

    Get rid of the photo radar.
    You want to slow people down. Put a police car that normaly would be parked because no to drive it out in plain view in the bad spots. Traffic will auto slow down.
    Ive seen a police care with a skeleton in the drivers seat. The reason i saw it was because i slowed down even if didnt have to.
    Even cut outs of a cruiser and an officer holding a radar gunis enough to get people to take notice of thier speed.
    Photo radar does nothing for the slowing of the immediate traffic unless its mounted on a police car.

  4. Dennis

    December 1, 2021 at 11:00 am

    Speeding is now sanctioned as long as you are Double Vaxed (with Booster of course) and, wearing your Mask.

    Being Vaxed has it’s privileges!

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Maskless teen student with asthma ostracized at Calgary Catholic school

“Kids in my class called me an ‘outsider’ which made me feel worse than I already felt,” said 14-year-old Darius.

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A Calgary Catholic school has segregated and since banned a student from attending school for not wearing a mask, says the student’s parents.

And before that, teachers had even taped off an area around the boy’s desk “like a crime scene.”

Darius Lynn, a Grade 9 student at St. Helena Junior High School in Calgary, suffers from asthma and was permitted to go maskless at his desk during the 2020-2021 school year.

When Darius returned to St. Helena for the 2021-2022 school year, without his parents’ knowledge, he was advised he would be required to wear a mask full time.

He complied for the first few months but eventually reported to his parents in late November he was struggling to breathe while wearing the mask.

“I had no idea he was told to wear a mask again this year,” Darius’ mother Stephanie told the Western Standard.

“My husband and I just assumed he wasn’t needing to wear a mask again this year.”

Stephanie said she and her husband Paul reached out to the new principal and Darius’ teachers to request they allow their son the same exemption as the previous year.

They were told he would need a doctor’s note, which Stephanie said they have been unable to acquire.

“Mask exemptions are impossible to get,” said Stephanie.

“Right now, doctors are just too scared to write them.”

Stephanie said the school’s solution was to, “move my son’s desk into the hallway.”

Darius also spoke with the Western Standard and said the teenagers in his class referred to him as an “outsider” after he was moved into the hallway.

“When they did group projects, they would just send me to the library and I had to work on my own,” said Darius.  

“Kids in my class called me an ‘outsider’ which made me feel worse than I already felt.”

Stephanie said she and her husband tried to appeal to the principal, but “she wouldn’t budge,” so they reached out to the superintendent.

“We begged for her to let Darius back into the classroom but he ended up sitting out there for two weeks where he was discriminated against and basically ridiculed so we contacted the superintendent,” said Stephanie.

Stephanie said she emailed Chief Superintendent Bryan Szumlas with the Catholic School Board who helped the Lynns get their son moved back into his classroom.

“So, he was moved back into the classroom, which was good, but what we didn’t know was that his teachers taped off the floor around his desk like a crime scene,” said Stephanie.

“After they put tape on the floor around my desk, some of the kids in my class would step past the tape and pretend they couldn’t breathe,” said Darius, explaining the teasing he endured.

Darius said his teachers had witnessed some of the teasing, but said, “most of the time the teachers didn’t do anything about it.

“They (teachers) also made me wait a few minutes before I could move to my next class because there were basically a bunch of students in the halls.”

“It was just awful what they were doing to him. They were treating him like a walking disease and visibly segregating him,” said Stephanie.

Stephanie said Darius had to stay within his taped boundaries for about a week until Christmas break.

“After the break, the principal notified us that Darius wouldn’t be welcome back if he wasn’t willing to wear a mask,” said Stephanie.

“In fact, one of the communications with the school referred to his asthma as his ‘apparent asthma’ like we were making it up or something.

“They said he could move to the online schooling system or do their D2L system from home,” said Stephanie referring to a web-based learning system offered throughout the school division.

“He doesn’t do well online so we are just trying to do the best we can. He’s in Grade 9, he should be able to be with his peers to finish off his last year in middle school.”

Darius said he has mixed feelings about not returning to school.

“I’m just really upset that I don’t get to see my friends anymore, but I also feel like I have less distractions at home,” said Darius.

Stephanie said it’s been a hard year for Darius as he also had to walk away from community hockey due to the vaccination mandates and additional costs associated with frequent rapid testing.

“He is totally destroyed,” said Stephanie.

The Lynns have two other sons — both attending Notre Dame High School — one in Grade 11 who is special needs and one in Grade 12.

“The real kicker for us is that we have a special needs son who has never worn a mask, doesn’t social distance and we have never been required to show a doctor’s note for him,” said Stephanie.

“They have totally humiliated my son and I’m angry. We just want our son to be treated with dignity and compassion. He has lost hockey because of the mandates and now he isn’t allowed to go to school.”

The family has since been referred to Area Director Deana Helton with regard to their son’s situation.

The Western Standard has contacted the school principal along with Helton but hasn’t heard back yet.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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Copping strikes EMS advisory committee amid system strains, red alerts

The Alberta Provincial EMS Advisory Committee will provide recommendations on a provincial EMS service plan by May.

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Health Minister Jason Copping has appointed MLAs R.J. Sigurdson (Highwood) and Tracy Allard (Grande Prairie) to co-chair a new EMS committee to address “unprecedented” demands on the healthcare system.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) is also rolling out a 10-point plan to maximize EMS system capacity.

The government listed many aggravating factors driving the system strains including “EMS staffing fatigue and illness, hospital offload delays, more requests for patient transfers, delays in receiving new ambulances and specialized vehicle parts caused by global supply issues.”

The province has seen a plethora of “red alerts” reported by EMS members and tweeted by the Union of Health Care Professionals @HSAAlbertaEMS. A red alert is when there are no available ambulances for emergency calls.

The government also reported a 30% increase in 911 calls in recent months. There was no mention of personnel shortages caused by the government’s COVID-19 mandate.

“Alberta’s government has been supportive of EMS throughout the pandemic. As we approach the peak of Omicron cases, we know the EMS system is seeing significant strain, which impacts service. We recognize this is a challenge and are taking immediate steps to improve emergency care access while we explore longer-term solutions,” said Copping.

AHS will immediately hire more paramedics, transfer low-priority calls to other agencies, and stop automatic ambulance dispatch to motor vehicle accidents with no injuries. AHS is also “launching pilot projects to manage non-emergency inter-facility transfers, and initiating an ‘hours of work’ project to help ease staff fatigue.”

Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of AHS is confident these actions “will allow us to better support our EMS staff and front-line paramedics, and in turn this will ensure our patients receive the best care possible.”

Additionally, AHS will issue a request for proposals in February to conduct a third-party review of Alberta’s provincewide EMS dispatch system.

“The objective review by external health system experts will provide further opportunities to address ongoing pressures, improve effectiveness and efficiency through best practices, and provide the best outcomes for Albertans who call 911 during a medical event,” the government said.

The Alberta Provincial EMS Advisory Committee will provide recommendations on a provincial EMS service plan by May. Committee representatives include “contracted ambulance operators, unions representing paramedics, municipal representatives and Indigenous community representatives.”

Sigurdson said the committee will consider taxpayers’ needs.

“Albertans expect that when they call 911 in their time of greatest need, EMS will always answer. The committee’s goal will be focused around ensuring and improving service to Albertans while supporting the most critical piece of that equation: our EMS staff across all of Alberta.”

Amber Gosselin is a Western Standard reporter.
agosselin@westernstandardonline.com

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WATCH: O’Toole will not be welcoming the truckers in Ottawa

“It’s not for the leader of the Opposition to attend a protest on the Hill or a convoy, it’s up to politicians to advocate for solutions, in a way that’s responsible and respectable to the health crisis we are in.”

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Conservative leader Erin O’Toole was asked six times during a Monday press conference about his stance on the truckers Freedom Convoy 2022, before giving a vague answer.

“We have been talking with the Canadian Trucking Alliance for several months,” said O’Toole told reports.

“We’ve seen a crisis in the supply chain coming for several months and we’ve proposed policies to try to help alleviate that. The most important of which is vaccines. We encourage everyone to get vaccinated.”

O’Toole press conference

Other specific. questions on the truckers’ comments were left with vague answers.

But the end of the conference O’Toole said it’s not his place to get involved.

“It’s not for the leader of the Opposition to attend a protest on the Hill or a convoy — it’s up to politicians to advocate for solutions, in a way that’s responsible and respectable to the health crisis we are in,” O’Toole said.

“We’ve been trying to tackle the supply chain crisis, encourage vaccination, not ignore problems and divide the country like Mr. (Justin) Trudeau does.”

O’Toole said policies cannot be put in place which could contribute to supply chain issues, as Canadians are already worried about their grocery bills.

O’Toole said he was focused on the economic strain Canadians are having, with record inflation, cost of living, 30% higher gas prices and the housing market’s rising costs,.

Ewa Sudyk is a reporter with the Western Standard
esudyk@westernstandardonline.com

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