B.C. financial regulator can now block driving privileges for those with unpaid fines

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British Columbia's investment regulator says it now has the power to block people with unpaid fines from obtaining or renewing a driver's licence or registering a vehicle.

The British Columbia Securities Commission says in a news release that its new power became effective on March 29 and allows it to block such issuances to anyone who has not fully paid a commission-imposed sanction for investment misconduct.

B.C. is the first province in Canada to link unpaid fines from the provincial securities regulator to driving privileges, according to the BCSC.

“If investors and our capital markets are harmed because of misconduct, there should be consequences," said Brenda Leong, chair and CEO of the commission, in the release.

"If you don’t pay the sanctions we impose, it can have an impact on your everyday life,” Leong added.

The change is part of a package of amendments to the provincial Securities Act passed by the provincial government in October 2019, according to the BCSC.

The new power can be applied only if the amount owed is $3,000 or more, and the commission says it will decide whether to use this power on a case-by-case basis.

The BCSC must give notice to a person with unpaid fines before blocking a licence or registration. If a person agrees to a payment plan or pays the amount they owe in full after receiving such a notice, the commission must withdraw the notice.

The BCSC imposes fines when it has determined that a B.C. resident has violated the Securities Act. It can also order violators of the act to repay the amount they obtained or avoided losing through their financial misconduct.

While the commission has not said yet whether it intends to do so, it could use its new power to limit the driving privileges of Thalbinder Singh Poonian and Shailu Poonian, who were found in 2018 to have violated the Securities Act by committing market manipulation.

The pair have not paid any of the roughly $19 million they were ordered to pay as a result of the commission's 2018 decision. A recent B.C. Supreme Court decision declared that the pair will continue to owe the money to the BCSC, even after they go through bankruptcy.