I want to start today’s post by wishing all residents of Barrhaven and their families a happy new year. I hope 2019 brings much joy and happiness.
As is often the case, the new calendar year also comes with a bevy of changes to existing laws and regulations. Here are some of the highlights for 2019:
No minimum wage increase in Ontario
The current government has halted the last installment of the previous administration’s minimum wage hike. In practical terms, that means the minimum wage will remain at $14 per hour until 2020, at which time the rate will increase annually at the rate of inflation.
It should also be noted that the provincial government will be introducing a new tax credit that will provide low-income and minimum wage workers up to $850 in Ontario personal income tax relief when they file their 2019 tax returns.
New drinking and driving penalties
You might want to think twice about how much alcohol you consume if you plan on driving. Preferably, you should never drink and drive at all.
Drivers in Ontario will face much stricter impaired driving laws in 2019. Impaired drivers with blood alcohol concentrations in the “warning range” of between .05 per cent and .08 per cent will now face fines of $250 for a first offense, $350 for a second offense and $450 for third and subsequent offenses. The same fines apply to anyone violating “zero tolerance” rules for newly licensed and commercial drivers.
With improved transit options and convenient ride-sharing services, there really is no reason to drink and drive in 2019.
$1000 fines for texting and driving
While on the topic of road safety, I’m still surprised at how many people still text and drive in this day and age. But texting is about to become a very expensive hobby in Ontario.
Starting today, fines for texting and driving (also known as driving while distracted) are rising to between $650-$1000 for a first offense. You will also be handed a three-day driving suspension and docked 3-points on your driving record. And if that’s not enough to convince you to put the phone down – just wait until you receive your next insurance bill – any texting conviction will result in a hefty premium increase.
A second conviction within a five year period will result in a potential fine of $2,000, a loss of six demerit points and a seven-day license suspension.
Additional convictions within that five-year period will result in an even bigger fine of up to $3,000, the loss of an additional six demerit points, plus a 30-day license suspension.
Photo radar might be coming to Barrhaven
Last year, the provincial government passed legislation allowing for the use of photo radar in school zones, also known as “community safety zones”. Municipalities are now awaiting for the finalization of related regulations before deciding whether to use the technology in their jurisdictions.
I have mixed feelings about photo radar. I do not oppose the technology as long as it’s used for community safety, and not as a revenue-generating tool. I live on a street with a school zone. The amount of speeding in our neighbourhood is significant. I would support the use of photo radar as long as it is set to capture the worst speeding offenders – those travelling at 25 km/h or more over the speed limit.
I must stress that no decision has been made to introduce photo radar in Barrhaven or Ottawa. But the option is now on the table, so we may well see some debate on this file at city council in 2019.