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Solicitor-General John van Dongen has had his driver's licence suspended because he's had too many speeding tickets.
Van Dongen, whose portfolio includes the Insurance Corp. of B.C. and the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (OSMV), revealed the driving prohibition in a news release Friday afternoon.
He said he learned of the suspension April 16 after receiving a letter from the OSMV and waited until Thursday — a week later — to inform Premier Gordon Campbell about the penalty.
Van Dongen said Friday that “in retrospect” he should have told Campbell earlier. The minister said he spent several days considering whether to appeal the suspension and campaigning for re-election in Abbotsford South before telling the premier.
“As soon as I received the letter, I acted immediately and accepted the temporary prohibition. I will not be appealing the decision and have mailed my driver’s license to the OSMV. I fully understand and accept responsibility for my driving behaviour and believe it is my duty to fully and completely comply with the decision," van Dongen said in the news release.
Campbell has reassigned responsibility for ICBC and the OSMV to Iain Black, minister of labour and citizen services.
“I feel it is important that both my actions and this latest decision do not have any detrimental impact on public confidence in either ICBC or OSMV," van Dongen said. “I fully recognize the importance of public safety and compliance with the law on our roads. The law applies equally to me as it does to everyone else and I strongly support that.”
The suspension came without warning and was a surprise, added van Dongen, even though he was aware that he had a history of speeding. “I am not proud of my driving record.”
The minister said the penalty was triggered by two speeding violations over the past two years. He said that an adjudicator working for the OSMV examined his overall driving record and ruled that suspension was warranted.
Van Dongen wouldn’t say how many tickets he has received over the years. “I have a history of speeding. I won’t get into the individual record. They look at the overall record.”
At a campaign stop in Cranbrook, James said: "John van Dongen, in his role as the top cop for British Columbia, has a unique position. I think it's important that he resign," she said.
"I think Gordon Campbell needs to remove him from that position. I think there is a special privilege being in that position in British Columbia."
Campbell declined to call for van Dongen’s resignation from cabinet, praising the B.C. Liberal candidate in Abbotsford South for going public about his speeding tickets.
"I think it’s probably embarassing to John. I know lots of people that have got tickets and what John felt was it was really important not to wait for something to come up and have some questions about ICBC and the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles,” Campbell told reporters.
“He wanted to make sure he protected the integrity of those two things."
NDP critic for the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth said van Dongen's behaviour is unaceptable.
"He has no creditibility on this issue and he should resign," Farnworth said. "This is the province's top cop. He's the minister responsible for road safety in the province of B.C."
Farnworth said driving prohibitions are a last resort.
"This is not about paying your tickets, it's about a pattern of behaviour," he said. "You have to have a pretty abysmal driving record to get a prohibition."
Van Dongen told Global B.C. Friday night that he would not be resigning.
On April 29, 2008, van Dongen, the RCMP and road-safety partners launched an $800,000 speed and high-risk driving awareness campaign that included enhanced speed enforcement, volunteer Speed Watch deployments in high-crash locations and community advertising.
In 2006, approximately 5,200 people were injured in 8,200 speed-related crashes in B.C., according to the ministry.
A search of B.C. provincial court records turns up five different charges for John Cornelius van Dongen under the Motor Vehicle Act.
On Jan. 24, 1999, van Dongen was issued a ticket for excessive speeding in Langley. On Sept. 19, 2004, van Dongen was issued a ticket for speeding contrary to a highway sign in Princeton. On Sept. 24, 2004, he was ticketed for speeding contrary to a highway sign in Merritt. On June 6, 2005, he was ticketed for the same offence, this time in Chilliwack.
All charges appear to have been stayed.
On Jan. 10, 2008, van Dongen was ticketed for failing to yield to a vehicle on a green light in Delta. He is set to appear in Richmond Provincial Court on June 30.
Meanwhile, a search of court records shows that Laura McDiarmid, B.C. Liberal candidate in Vancouver-West End, has a long list of driving offences, including 10 speeding tickets, one excessive speeding and one driving without reasonable consideration.
— with files from Katie Mercer and Canwest News Service
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