POA - Provincial Offences Act

Overview of Types of Provincial Offences

The Provincial Offences Act contains numerous provincial statutes regulate the conduct of individuals and industry. Where breaches of those regulations occur, the governing statute typically creates a corresponding offence to promote compliance with the regulatory standard. Key areas of regulatory law in Ontario include:

Motor Vehicle Regulation

The Highway Traffic Act (HTA) regulates the conduct of drivers on Ontario roads. It may be one of the most well known regulatory statutes within the province, creating numerous offences including speeding, careless driving, failure to wear a safety belt, failure to follow the instructions on a road sign, and failure to carry one’s license while driving a motor vehicle.[128] In some instances, the penalty for offences under the HTA can be significant. For example, motorists can incur a maximum fine of $10,000 or 6 months imprisonment for stunt driving, and a maximum fine of $50,000 if a wheel detaches from a commercial vehicle.[129]

The Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act also creates an offence for failure to have insurance while operating a motor vehicle and it carries a significant minimum fine of $5,000 on a first conviction, and $10,000 on a subsequent conviction.[130]

Municipal by-laws also prescribe various parking, “no stopping”, and certain other motor vehicle related offences that are enforced through the POA.

Occupational Health and Safety Regulation

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) imposes duties on both workers and employers [131] with respect to equipment, material and protective devices to ensure that our places of work are safe. The duties imposed by the OHSA on workers include wearing the clothing and equipment specified by their employers, and reporting any defects with such clothing or equipment.[132] Workers are also required to report to their employer any contraventions of the OHSA of which they are aware.[133] The duties imposed on employers include developing and implementing a health and safety program, and formulating a policy regarding workplace violence and harassment.[134]

The OHSA creates offences for a failure to comply with provisions in the Act punishable with maximum penalties of $25,000 or 12 months imprisonment for persons, and a $500,000 maximum fine for corporations.[135]

Some charges can be significant. For example, numerous charges have been laid against an employer who is alleged to have failed to provide proper training and equipment to migrant workers who were killed while performing balcony repairs to a building in Toronto in December of 2009.  The 61 charges are reported to carry up to $17 million in fines in total.[136]

Environmental Protection Regulation

A particularly current and important area of provincial regulation is environmental protection. The Environmental Protection Act (EPA),[137] Clean Water Act, 2006 (“CWA”),[138] and Pesticides Act (PA)[139] are just some examples of provincial legislation that create obligations to protect the environment with offences established for breaches of those statutes.

The EPA regulates the actions of persons in charge of pollutants, creating offences in areas such as spillage. A person in charge of a pollutant must develop a plan to reduce the risk of spillage and to respond to its occurrence.[140] The EPA also prohibits littering, imposing a fine up to $1,000 on a first time offence and up to $2,000 on a second time offence.[141]

The CWA establishes a number of obligations, such as a requirement that a person with authority under the CWA who becomes aware of a water drinking hazard provide notice to the Ministry of the Environment.[142] Under the CWA, it is an offence to continue engaging in an activity that endangers a water supply.[143]

The PA imposes obligations on individuals who have released pesticides into their environment outside of an ordinary course of events, such that injury to the environment, animals or persons is likely to occur.[144]

Regulation of Controlled Substances

Provincial legislation also regulates the use of controlled substances, such as liquor and tobacco. The Liquor License Act (LLA)[145] and the Smoke-Free Ontario Act (SFOA)[146] are two examples that affect numerous individuals and businesses in Ontario and they create offences for breaches of their provisions.

The LLA makes it a regulatory offence to be intoxicated in a public place or to carry an opened container of alcohol in a motor vehicle.[147] Individuals must be licensed in order to sell alcohol.[148] Persons who are convicted of a regulatory offence under the LLA can be subject to a maximum fine of $100,000, imprisonment for a year, or both. Corporations convicted under the LLA can be subject to a maximum fine of $250,000.[149]

The SFOA makes it a regulatory offence to sell tobacco to persons under the age of 19,[150] or to display tobacco products in a place where such products are sold.[151] Corporations engaged in the manufacture, sale or distribution of tobacco products can be charged a maximum of $100,000 for contravening provisions under the statute.[152]

General Public Order and Safety regulation 

Numerous statutes regulate matters of public order and safety. The Trespass to Property Act creates an offence where a person enters premises to which entry is prohibited by the Act. [153] The Family Law Act permits a court to make a restraining order against a person’s former spouse where that person has reason to fear for his or her safety.[154]

Part VII of the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 creates several offences, such as violating a provision of a fire code.[155] The Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 regulates, among other things, the production, processing and manufacturing of food for consumption and it establishes offences for contraventions of the Act.[156]  Under this statute, orders can be made to prevent or eliminate any food safety risk.[157]

Christopher’s Law (Sex Offender Registry), 2000 imposes certain reporting requirements on a person convicted of a “sex offence” and where a person fails to comply with the Act, he or she is guilty of an offence punishable by a fine or imprisonment. [158]  The Safe Streets Act, 1999 creates offences for soliciting in certain public locations and disposing of dangerous things in an outdoor public place.[159] A provision under this statute makes it an offence to solicit a person in a vehicle on a roadway.[160]

Consumer Protection

The Consumer Protection Act, 2002 (CPA) applies to consumer transactions in Ontario.[161] The CPA prohibits representations to consumers that are false or misleading. It lists a number of prohibited representations, such as specifying that a certain repair is necessary when it is not, or that a price advantage exists when it does not.[162] The CPA also governs consumer transactions that take place over the internet.[163] It imposes an obligation on suppliers to provide consumers with a written copy of any agreement they have entered into. The CPA also enables consumers to cancel an agreement made over the internet under prescribed circumstances.[164]

The Consumer Reporting Act, 1990 regulates the gathering of information of a company’s consumer base.[165] It requires a consumer agency to correct information where a consumer has reported to the agency that there is an error in the information kept in his or her file.[166] A director or an officer of a corporation who is convicted of an offence under this statute may be liable to a maximum fine of $35,000, one year of imprisonment, or both. The maximum fine that can be imposed on a corporation is of $100,000.[167]

The preceding snapshot of regulatory offences provides a glimpse of the range of offences that could be brought under the POA’s procedure. They differ dramatically not only in subject-matter, but also in gravity and in the potential penalties upon conviction. A provincial offences officer may choose to use the Part III process which would allow for a more severe penalty as authorized under the offence-creating statute, but excluding the manner in which the proceeding is commenced, the POA makes virtually no other distinction as to the manner in which this broad range of offences are determined by the court.

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