B.C.’s Justice Minister says she’s surprised Metro Vancouver bus drivers are held to a different standard than other drivers – and other transit agencies – when it comes to running red lights.

Shirley Bond said she hadn’t heard about TransLink drivers not having to pay tickets at automated red light cameras until a CTV News story Monday, and promised to examine the issue.

“I think it’s important we have safety reasons for a reason in B.C. I’m surprised that there are different standards and I’m certainly going to take a look at it,” she said as the legislature reconvened Tuesday.

A CTV News investigation discovered that drivers had amassed about 230 tickets from red light cameras taken around the Lower Mainland in the past five years.

Drivers do not have to pay the $167 tickets. Instead, they are given a warning, a day of training, and a repeat offense could lead to a suspension without pay.

Transit authorities in Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria, Seattle, Portland, and Toronto told CTV News they require drivers to pay any tickets for traffic violations.

Metro Vancouver drivers’ exemption originated when Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority lawyers appealed a red light ticket in traffic court in 2002, arguing their system of alternative discipline was as good as a ticket.

The judge agreed, and no TransLink driver has paid an automated red light ticket since.

The president of the union that represents bus drivers, Don MacLeod, said a suspension is a significant deterrent.

“It’s way more costly than if you get more than one ticket, than if you’re paying it out of your pocket. You’re looking at three days’ pay out of a drivers’ pocket,” he said.

MacLeod said he was aware of only one or two three-day suspensions issued over the past 10 years.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation spokesman Jordan Bateman said taxpayers are getting a bad deal, with some $40,000 in unpaid fines, plus the cost of training.

“There are two sets of laws in this country, one for government workers, and one for the rest of us,” he said.

TransLink told CTV News that given the large distance driven by the thousands of drivers they are not concerned about the number of tickets.

MacLeod said drivers have to weigh many factors as they drive, including whether it’s safe to stop suddenly with passengers aboard.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the time it’s not because drivers aren’t paying attention,” he said. “He’s made the decision that 'I have no choice here.'”