Categories: Local News

Morinville takes photo radar to plebiscite

PLEBISCITE COMING – Morinville residents will vote on whether or not to keep photo radar.

Morinville residents will go to the polls this April to vote on whether or not to ban photo radar from their community.

Town council voted unanimously Tuesday night to hold a plebiscite, or vote of the electorate, on bylaw 1/2014 – the proposed ban on photo radar.

The vote is set to happen this April 14.

The draft bylaw, if passed, would require all traffic enforcement done on behalf of the town to be done by authorized peace officers (RCMP or otherwise), and would ban them from using photo radar or red light cameras.

Morinville has photo radar but no red-light cameras.

The draft was triggered by a petition filed last fall by resident Cliff Haryett calling for these measures. As the petition gathered signatures from at least 10 per cent of the town’s population, town council was obliged to act on it.

In an interview, Coun. Stephen Dafoe, who made the motion to hold the plebiscite, explained that town council could not legally vote the draft down due to the way the Municipal Government Act handles petitions.

“Our choice was pass it – all three readings – or put it out to the public.”

Given the circumstances, Dafoe said going to a plebiscite is the best choice.

“We shouldn’t make a decision based on a petition that’s just 10 per cent of the population,” he said.

Mayor Lisa Holmes said in an interview that council was not enthusiastic about this choice, as a plebiscite will cost $8,000 to $10,000 – about the same as an election.

“This is a big cost to the community, and an inconvenience, but it’s the way the law works, and we’re looking forward to having the public’s input,” she said.

Lead-up to the polls

Voters will be asked to vote yes or no on whether or not bylaw 1/2014 should pass.

This was a very divisive issue that should be decided by voters, Coun. Rob Ladouceur said in council.

“The decision, the financial impact and the potential safety impacts belong to the community.”

Holmes hopes the vote will trigger a broader debate on traffic safety, as it includes red light cameras as well.

Holmes said she personally opposes banning photo radar and red-light cameras in town, as both are valuable enforcement tools.

“I personally do not feel comfortable removing the ability to use (those tools) based on a petition that had no background information.”

Holmes said council will likely hold open houses and information sessions on photo radar prior to April, and will likely discuss it during the upcoming budget debates.

“It will potentially (cause) a significant increase on their taxes.”

It’s important that residents have the information they need to make an informed decision on this issue, she continued.

“I just hope people care enough about their community to come out and vote.”

Details on the vote are expected to be released in the coming weeks.

Rare occurrence

Plebiscites are relatively rare events in municipal politics.
St. Albert held one during the 2004 civic election that lead to the construction of Servus Credit Union Place. Residents voted down two proposed annexations in 1977 but approved another the year before – the same year they also gave a proposed multi-purpose recreational-cultural facility in Mission a thumbs-down.
A 1973 plebiscite caused the town to develop its own transit system, while 1968 saw a number of spending bylaws go to a public vote, and 1969 saw the community vote in favour of amalgamation with Edmonton – a motion that was never enacted.

Kevin Ma: Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.