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Mayor Tory open to discussing photo radar in school zones

Last Updated Dec 29, 2015 at 6:59 pm EDT

Mayor John Tory says he’s open to discussing photo radar in school zones as a way to not only improve public safety, but address a 2016 police budget that ballooned past a billion dollars for the first time ever.

In a year-end interview with CityNews Tory suggested that school zones could be more efficiently policed by utilizing technology.

“People get a bit worked up about this technology, including what came to be known as photo radar, but the police would say there’s a huge problem, and residents would say, there’s a huge problem in school zones with people speeding.

“So yes, you can have in scattered school zones once in a while a radar trap with a police officer there, or you could use technology…this is a debate we better have,” he said.

In November, the Toronto Police Services Board approved a budget that crept past a billion dollars, marking a $27 million increase over the previous year’s.

Tory said it was essential to look for savings, and technology can aid in the fight to clamp down on swelling costs.

“Can we afford any longer, I would answer no, to have two officers sitting in a police car watching to see if somebody turns left illegally at an intersection? First of all, do you need two officers to do that? Secondly, do you need any officers at all or could you use technology for that so those two officers could be redeployed into areas where we need police officers…”

“These are discussions we are going to have.”

But the city would first need the province’s permission to implement any photo radar program, which would require amendments to the Highway Traffic Act.

In an email to CityNews, the Ministry of Transportation said it is not considering the re-introduction of photo radar at this time, but would consider any requests.

“We welcome and will review carefully any proposal from municipalities or stakeholders that include measures to improve road safety,” a ministry spokesperson wrote.

“The ministry takes road safety very seriously and any recommendations that could save a life or prevent injury will always be carefully considered.”

Photo radar had a controversial and short-lived reign in Ontario. It was introduced by Bob Rae’s NDP government in 1994, and was scrapped less than a year later when Mike Harris’ Progressive Conservatives were voted in.

Harris called it a cash grab.