Vancouver Sun
Tuesday, November 28,2000
Byline: City Scene
'Under Surveillance'
 Imagine  you  received  a letter from ICBC saying someone complained about
 your  car.  Imagine the letter alleged that your car was spewing smoke out
 the  tailpipe.  And finally imagine that the letter urges you to have your
 vehicle repaired as quickly as possible.

 In the past year, ICBC sent out 210 such letters to vehicle owners as part
 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
 repair it."