Province has no plans to move ahead on long-delayed photo radar review: Winnipeg police chief

The Manitoba government has made no progress on a long-delayed review of the province’s photo radar traffic program, three years after it was announced.

In 2019, the province issued a request for proposals for a consultant to review the program, but the COVID-19 pandemic hit before the contract could be awarded, a provincial government spokesperson said.

Following a Winnipeg Police Board meeting on Friday, police Chief Danny Smyth told reporters it was his understanding that the province has no intention of moving forward with the review.

“My last indication was they don’t plan on doing a review right now, so there’s been no movement in that area,” Smyth said.

Smyth has called on the province to amend the legislation that created the program. The legislation prescribes the specific technology used in the cameras, which are now more than 20 years old and starting to break down.

“We use an old coiled technology that’s actually underneath the roadway. It’s a sensor, it’s very expensive to implement and it’s not supported anymore,” he said.

“There are much more sophisticated above-ground camera systems that would be able to do that, but we just don’t have the ability to upgrade.”

The law also limits the locations where the cameras can be placed, preventing the service from moving cameras to other areas that would lend themselves to automated enforcement, he said.

There are approximately 50 locations the city has identified where photo enforcement can happen, said Smyth.

“We have active cameras we move from time to time within those defined 50 sites, but it doesn’t have the ability to expand.”

The Winnipeg Police Service says falling photo radar revenue has contributed to a budget shortfall. It’s asked the city for an extra $4.3 million to meet its projected costs for this year.

Photo radar revenue is down about 32 per cent this year compared to 2021, largely because there were fewer eligible construction zones that lent themselves to photo enforcement due to rules about site layout and signage, according to a report delivered at Friday’s police board meeting.

The photo radar review the province promised was intended to analyze policy, legislative and program frameworks, with a focus on how effectively photo radar is meeting safety objectives, it said at the time.

Legislation allowing photo enforcement came into effect in 2002, and Winnipeg introduced its first cameras the next year, the province said in November 2019 news release. It’s the only municipality in Manitoba that uses photo enforcement, the province said.

The provincial spokesperson said Manitoba Transportation and Infrastructure is aware of the police service’s request to change the legislation related to approved photo enforcement equipment.

The province “is currently exploring options for the use of photo enforcement in Manitoba, including monitoring other jurisdictions’ programs for future consideration,” the spokesperson said.