Premier Doug Ford wants "an immediate solution” to visibility problems plaguing Ontario’s new blue licence plates after his government initially assured the public they were working.
Mr. Ford spoke twice with Penny Wise, the president of plate manufacturer 3M Canada, after concerns were raised by police and others that the plates are not easily readable in the dark, his office said Wednesday.
“Public safety is the top priority of our government. Premier Ford has personally spoken to the President of 3M on two separate occasions seeking an immediate solution to the issues identified with their product,” Premier’s Office spokeswoman Ivana Yelich said in a statement.
“The Government of Ontario expects 3M to stand by their product. We are working with them on a path forward and will have more to say shortly.”
The company said it is working with the government and the supplier making the plates to address any concerns.
“We stand behind our products and are actively providing solutions to the Ontario government to address the readability issue as quickly as possible,” 3M Canada said in a statement.
The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, as well as Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, have expressed concerns about the new plates, which appear to reflect in the dark, making them unreadable to the naked eye. The city of Toronto on Wednesday also said preliminary data suggest the smaller font size of the name “Ontario” on the new plates “may pose visibility challenges” for speed enforcement and red-light cameras during the day and night.
The Ontario Provincial Police, however, said the plates were tested last fall by its cruiser cameras and the force is not aware of any issues.
The Premier’s statement came a day after Government Services Minister Lisa Thompson expressed confidence in the new plates, saying they underwent “a rigorous testing program” and were “actually very readable” after an off-duty Kingston police officer posted a widely shared picture of an unreadable plate in a well-lit parking lot at night.
On Tuesday, she criticized the province’s previous “Liberal plates" – initially designed by a previous Progressive Conservative government – which were plagued by a defect that saw them peel and flake. The laminate film on the previous plates was also made by 3M. Ms. Thompson’s spokesman did not respond to questions as to why the government chose 3M as the new plate manufacturer.
On Wednesday, Ms. Thompson said the plates, which began to be issued Feb. 1, were designed in partnership with 3M, and the company is responsible “for quality control and manufacturing the plates.”
“We have been made aware of the concerns, we are listening and we’re continuing to work with the manufacturers, stakeholders and the public through this process,” Ms. Thompson told the Ontario Legislature. She did not take any reporters’ questions.
Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the government needs to stop denying the issue or pointing fingers and fix the problem. She said the public was being put at risk by the Premier’s rush to put his political party’s colours onto the province’s licence plates last year.
“This is a pickle that the Conservatives got us into, that Mr. Ford got us into, with his desire to have those vanity plates out and on the roads as quickly as possible,” Ms. Horwath told reporters. “And obviously, there’s a problem.”
But she stopped short of offering her own solution, saying it was up to the government to solve the issue. But she said the province does not have a supply of the old licence plates to fall back on, after sending them back to the manufacturer.
With a report from Jeff Gray
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.