Skip to main content
driving concerns

If you get caught by a speed camera in another province and haven’t paid your ticket, don’t expect to stay under the radar.gehringj/stock

My daughter had my car this summer and got nabbed three times by speed trap cameras on 16th Avenue in Calgary. The Calgary Police Service has fined me, as owner of the car, more than $600. I haven’t been to Alberta in years and the car has Ontario plates. Am I obliged to pay, and, if so, what happens if I don’t? – Tom, Toronto

If you got nabbed by a speed camera in Alberta and haven’t paid your ticket, don’t expect to stay under the radar.

While some of the province’s collection tools don’t work for out-of-province drivers, it can hit you at tax time.

Alberta, like most other provinces, can deduct unpaid traffic fines out of your federal tax refund and GST credits through the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) refund set-off program.

That includes fines from photo radar. Plus, it applies to out-of-province tickets. So, if you don’t pay those tickets now, the CRA could subtract them from money it owes you and give it back to the province.

Last year, Alberta collected more than $7-million owing on traffic tickets through the CRA, the province says.

There are a few limits on what the CRA can do. For instance, it won’t deduct fines from your child tax credit and it won’t take away your wages.

And, the program doesn’t collect from Quebec or the Yukon, the CRA says.

Home disadvantage?

Unlike most other traffic tickets, photo radar and red-light camera tickets aren’t made out to the driver of the vehicle. Nobody is pulled over. Instead, the ticket just gets sent in the mail to the registered owner of the vehicle.

So, unlike normal speeding tickets, they don’t come with demerits, they don’t end up on your driving record and they don’t affect your insurance rates.

Otherwise, they have the same consequences as other tickets. You have to pay them and, generally, they don’t expire.

In most provinces, that also means that the provincial government can keep you from registering your vehicle or renewing your licence until you pay up, whether it’s a photo-radar ticket or a regular speeding ticket.

But, typically, those restrictions don’t apply to out-of-province tickets.

Ontario, for instance, could keep you from getting your licence plate stickers for all of the cars you own because you have unpaid fines there – but, not if you have unpaid fines in Alberta.

And, you don’t have to worry about getting pulled over, either at home or in another province, just because you owe money. Generally, police won’t issue warrants for vehicles with unpaid tickets, Alberta’s Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General says.

Depending on the province, there are other ways to tackle tardy ticket payers, including garnisheeing wages. But, again, those typically don’t apply to other provinces.

So, if you’ve got an unpaid out-of-province ticket, the only way that province can collect is through the CRA – or, they could also try through a collections agency.

Out of the picture?

So what if you get caught speeding by a cop and not a camera? The penalties for not paying it are the same. But, in most provinces, that ticket will go on your record and affect your insurance rates.

Most provinces do share some demerits. For instance, Alberta demerits for speeding would apply to your Ontario licence.

There are exceptions. British Columbia, Quebec and Nunavut didn’t sign the Canadian Driver Licence Compact (CDLC), a 1990 agreement to share driving records between the provinces and territories.

Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up today.