Langley City is one of 14 municipalities going after ICBC over its refusal to provide vehicle information for bylaw enforcement.
Starting last autumn, the government insurer started refusing to provide information that allowed the municipality to write tickets and do bylaw enforcement. The City and the other municipalities contend that ICBC is misinterpretting privacy rules.
"ICBC took the position that the City of Langley was not entitled to motor vehicle information until a violation ticket was written," explained City legislative services manager Carolyn Mushata. "A violation ticket [or bylaw offence notice or MTI] could not be written until the motor vehicle information was obtained that gave the identity of the vehicle owner and his or her address."
Langley City council discussed the issue during its Feb. 18 meeting.
"You're just left to shake your head," commented City Councillor Gayle Martin.
It hasn't stopped the City from issuing tickets and other bylaw work but impacts some instances.
"There are times when we need to have the registered owner information," Mushata told the Langley Advance. "For example we are in the process of issuing the ticket, the driver returns and leaves the scene or in order to respond to noise complaints and the complainant only has the licence plate number, we require the registered owner information."
ICBC would not say what had changed, only that this is a privacy issue.
"ICBC works with all municipalities on their information requests and will continue to do so, within what is allowed under privacy law. The privacy law applies the same to all B.C. municipalities," said media relations person Lindsay Olsen. "ICBC's position is that privacy law allows access to our customer's personal information only after a ticket has been issued."
The City sought an opinion from its own lawyer and has now teamed up with the others communities, sharing the costs of lawyers and fighting with ICBC. As well the City has passed a motion to enlist help from the Union of B.C. Municipalities. Also part of the dust-up is the Licensing Inspectors and Bylaw Officers Association which initially hired the lawyer.
After three months of back and forth with ICBC, the City's next options include "A massive Freedom of Information (FOI) request designed to flush out the reasons for the restricted access to information and to confirm suspicions that some local governments are being treated differently," according to Mushata's report.
The City and others could also look for a Supreme Court of B.C. ruling to enforce the provisions of contracts with ICBC.
"Such an aggressive move represents abandonment of the conciliatory approach and puts the local governments at odds with ICBC. In addition, the contracts are for three year terms and many, if not all, would expire before the litigation was concluded, making any successful action ineffective," Mushata noted.
Municipalities sign three-year contracts with ICBC that allow communities to obtain information from ICBC for three circumstances - obtaining a debt or fine owed, in relation to municipal bylaw enforcement and parking regulations.
"These agreements have been in place for a long time and on average, municipalities access our customer's information approximately one million times per year," Olsen said.