Speedy van Dongen loses licence over tickets
B.C.'s Solicitor General may soon become a stronger advocate for public transit after it was announced his driver's licence was suspended because of speeding tickets.
John van Dongen, the Minister of Public Safety and BC Liberal candidate for Abbotsford South, said Friday the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (OSMV) sent him a letter confirming his driving privileges had been put on hold because of tickets received in the past year and a half.
"As soon as I received the letter, I acted immediately and accepted the temporary prohibition," he wrote.
"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 told CTV News he has a "long history" of speeding. Although the minister said he didn't know how many tickets he had received -- or how fast he was going at the time -- he admitted it was excessive.
"I don't know what the actual speed was. I'm taking a defensive driving course to improve my driving ability."
Van Dongen says the voters will decide whether Friday's news would hurt him or his party.
"I don't know. I've worked hard for the people of B.C. I'm not going to defend my driving record."
Van Dongen, who oversees the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), has asked Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell to re-assign the responsibility for the corporation to another minister.
"While I am not currently involved in any active decisions as Minister with respect to these agencies, 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," he wrote.
Less than an hour after the news van Dongen lost his license, the BC Liberals reassigned responsibility for ICBC and the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles.
The two areas will now be overseen by the Ministry of Labour and Citizens' Services from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor-General.
Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell said the suspension was probably embarrassing for van Dongen, and said he was surprised about the news.
"I don't know about everyone's driving record. If we said to people 'if you have any driving infractions you're not eligible to run for office,' we'd have a pretty small legislature," Campbell told media.
He commended van Dongen for being up front and protecting the integrity of his ministry.
"It's not like he hasn't paid his tickets. He's done that," Campbell said.
Drivers get a warning letter if they rack up nine to 14 driving demerit points, said Mark Jan Vrem, manager of media relations for the Insurance Bureau of British Columbia. After that, it's an escalating series of driving bans.
"Fifteen to 19 points will trigger a prohibition that runs from three to 12 months, 20 to 24 points the prohibition is from four to 18 months and 25 to 49 points is five to 24 months," he said. "Also, if you get two convictions for excessive speeding (40 kilometres over the limit), that'll also trigger a driving prohibition that can range from three to 18 months."
Vrem said speeding drivers also must pay more to renew their licences and have a driver's risk premium added to their auto insurance.
Van Dongen is seeking his fifth election victory in the May 12 vote.
With files from The Canadian Press