The Ontario government says it will temporarily distribute old versions of the province’s blue-and-white licence plates while it works to resolve visibility problems of the new blue-on-blue plates.
Premier Doug Ford’s government has been on the defensive for two weeks after initially denying any problems with its recently redesigned licence plate. The government has since backtracked and Mr. Ford has said he wants an “immediate solution” to any problems, including concerns raised by police and others that the plates are not easily readable in the dark.
The province will continue to distribute the new blue plates until March 4. On March 5, the old blue-and-white licence plates will be temporarily issued until at least March 16, when the new, enhanced plates are expected to be delivered. The Progressive Conservative government has not publicly identified the defect that makes some of the plates difficult to read at night.
Government Services Minister Lisa Thompson, who initially defended the new plates and derided the previous version as “Liberal plates,” said her government is working with manufacturing company 3M Canada to resolve the issue. The previous plates sometimes peeled and flaked, but predated the previous Liberal government.
“We take these concerns seriously and together have put a plan in place to deliver an enhanced new plate,” Ms. Thompson said in a statement on Friday.
“Manufacturing of the new enhanced plates is expected to begin within two weeks and they will be distributed shortly afterwards. We are pleased to have reached a resolution to this matter at no cost to Ontario taxpayers.”
Ms. Thompson’s office declined an interview request on Friday.
3M Canada said it is providing material to the province and testing is being completed by police and other key stakeholders.
“We take these concerns seriously and together have put a plan in place to deliver an enhanced new plate,” the company said in a statement.
NDP MPP Jennifer French said the government should not be issuing the blue-on-blue plates while the province works to fix the visibility issues.
“They have known from the beginning that there was a problem,” she said. “The fact that they are knowingly continuing to distribute these problematic plates for another week is not acceptable.”
The visibility problem was first raised two weeks ago on social media by an off-duty Kingston police officer, who posted a picture of an unreadable plate in a well-lit parking lot at night.
The new plates are two shades of blue with white writing, replacing ones that were primarily white with blue writing. They also have a new slogan, “A Place to Grow,” replacing “Yours to Discover.” Government officials could not say on Friday whether the new, enhanced plates would resemble the redesigned version.
The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, as well as Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, previously expressed concerns about the new plates, although police groups say they are now working with the government to improve the new version.
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. A spokesman for the toll road Highway 407 said there are no issues in capturing the image of the plate.
The new blue-on-blue plates rolled out across the province starting on Feb. 1. At least 71,000 plates were delivered as of Feb. 26, the government said. Government officials could not immediately say how many of the old plates will be delivered.
Drivers who have received one of the new plates will be contacted by mail with instructions on how to replace their plates with new, “enhanced” ones, the Ontario government said Friday.