In the past year, ICBC sent out 210 such letters to vehicle owners
of its AirCare program to reduce air pollutants in the region. One of
those people is Tony Sheppard. To say getting the letter made Sheppard
angry is an understatement.
'I think it is a police-state attitude," he said.
'The idea of citizens informing on other citizens has very unpleasant
connotations Someone has gone to a lot of trouble. They looked me up.
Now I'm on a government file as a polluter."
To top it off, the day before he received the letter, Sheppard took his
1988 Dodge Caravan through AirCare. It passed.
Instead of just fuming, Sheppard decided to do something. He phoned
AirCare and talked to Steve Parkinson. He's the program coordinator for
the On-Road program. In response to Sheppard's comments, Parkinson made a
few changes to the letter. In future, letters to other owners will no
longer assume the complaint is valid and the vehicle is spewing smoke.
But Sheppard still doesn't like the whole idea of the letter and what ft
'You don't know who did it. Is it an eco-nut? Or someone out to give me
a hard time? I'm not paranoid, as far as I know. It makes me feel as if
someone is watching me."
City Limits also contacted Parkinson. He vehicle has had the explained
that the letter-writng program began May, 1st, 1999. Besides the 210
letters sent to owners of cars and light trucks, 249 have gone to owners
of heavy-duty trucks.
Anyone can complain about any smoking motor vehicle by calling 435-SMOG.
The calls are recorded and transcribed at the AirCare administration
office in Burnaby. Parkinson then gets that information, looks up the
vehicle licence plate and sends out the letter. He keeps a database of al
complaints which only he has access to.
Parkinson is aware that some people could use the reporting line to harass
neighbours. But he doesn't think that has been or is likely to be a
problem. His rationale for that belief is that the reporting phone number
isn't well advertised. "Someone has to put in a fair amount of effort to
report a vehicle." He said.
"It is not like we're actively advertising for someone to fink on their
Parkinson also pointed out that nothing further is done besides sending
out the letter: AirCare does not send out an official to investigate the
complaint and doesn't check whether the reported vehicle has had the
necessary repairs done to pass AirCare. City Limits asked whether there
is any way to measure whether the letters have had any effect. Parkinson
admitted he has no evidence the letters have accomplished anything.
"The purpose of the letter is to inform a person that they have had a
report against the vehicle and hopefully they will have the work done to