Ontario government will stop issuing new blue licence plates amid readability issue
TORONTO -- Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government will stop issuing blue licence plates amid readability concerns, but says a non-disclosure agreement with the manufacturer will prevent the government from providing the reasons behind the defect.
Nearly two weeks after initially denying any issues with the licence plates, the Ford government announced on Friday that Service Ontario will temporarily stop handing out the problematic plates and instead revert back to the old white-with-blue-lettering licence plates.
Meanwhile 3M Canada, which manufactured the plates, said it is “providing material to the province” to be tested by police and key stakeholders and the finalized plates will be provided to the province at no cost to taxpayers.
However, government sources say that agreement means “there are certain things we cannot talk about.”
"We signed an agreement with 3M ... we are now held to a non-disclosure,” one official said, which includes the reasons behind the defect that made the plates difficult the read.
The new double blue licence plates have come under intense scrutiny over the past two weeks after complaints from drivers and front-line police officers about the plate’s readability at night.
Government sources said the “visual identity” issues will be addressed and the entire plate is “under review.”
“The new design is under development,” the sources told CTV News Toronto.
When asked whether the look of the plate – the dark blue background, adorned with a lighter blue stripe and white lettering – will change, the sources said they “can’t give” an answer.
The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services says the new plates should be ready by Mar 16 and any driver who received a defective licence plate will be sent a letter with replacement instructions, along with a new licence plate validation sticker.
In a statement, the minister said that taxpayers will not be on the hook for the enhanced plates.
"We take these concerns seriously and together have put a plan in place to deliver an enhanced new plate," Lisa Thompson said. “We are pleased to have reached a resolution to this matter at no cost to Ontario taxpayers.”
The New Democratic Party’s transportation critic Jennifer French argues that the government’s decision to halt distribution of the plates should have been made sooner.
“For almost two weeks now, the Ford government has knowingly issued tens of thousands of defective blue license plates,” French said in a statement. “This never should have happened. It was clear from the beginning that the new blue plates were unsafe, but the Ford Conservatives have chosen to put public safety at risk, and their response to criticism has been denial and finger pointing.”
Since launching the plates on Feb. 1, the government says it has issued 71,000 blue plates, representing one per cent of the 7.6 million active passenger plates in Ontario.