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One of Ontario Premier Doug Ford's vehicles sits parked at the Ontario Legislature sporting a new licence plate in Toronto on Feb. 20, 2020.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

How did the Progressive Conservatives government’s new licence plates go wrong?

Both ways – gradually, then suddenly.

When they were unleashed on the province in early February, a spokesman for the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services declared the new plates were “stronger, brighter and longer lasting than the current Ontario licence plate.”

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Shortly thereafter, however, Kingston Police Sgt. Steve Koopman tweeted a photograph of a vehicle parked with a barely discernible license plate. “This was taken off duty in a relatively well-lit parking lot with my headlights on. Did anyone consult with police before designing and manufacturing the new Ontario licence plates? They’re virtually unreadable at night.” His was the first of many complaints. The City of Toronto reported that new licence plates “pose visibility challenges to both photo radar devices and red-light cameras.”

What followed was the three stages of messing up licence plate design.

First there was denial: Minister of Government and Consumer Services Lisa Thompson claimed the plates, which are made by 3M Canada, were “actually very readable.”

Then bargaining: A day later she admitted there were problems. The Premier’s office issued a statement saying that “The Government of Ontario expects 3M to stand by their product.” Which is strange because no one was saying the new plates are hard to stand beside; they were saying that under certain conditions they look like a blue blur.

Finally, there was acceptance “Are the licence plates a problem? Absolutely," said House Leader Paul Calandra.

We now have “Plategate.”

That means licence plate small talk.

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Have no fear. The Road Sage is here to make sure your plate banter is top notch. Take the Plategate Quiz. Everything you always wanted to know about licence plates but were too busy living your life to bother to ask.

1According to industry experts and transportation engineers, what is the most important quality a license plate should possess?
A. That you can read it.
B. That it can be read by you.
C. All of the above.

Answer: C.

2When questioned by reporters, how did Minister of Government and Consumer Services Lisa Thompson describe the previous “status quo” licence plates?
A. “The status quo, flaking and peeling Liberal plates were not an option to stick with.”
B. “The status quo, white plates with blue letters and numbers that you could read Liberal plates were not an option to stick with.”
C. The status quo, Liberal plates that, at night, did not refract headlight illumination with the force of a thousand suns were not an option to stick with.”

Answer: A.

3Which country was the first to issue numbered licence plates?
A. England in 1899
B. The United States in 1897
C. France in 1893
D. Not Ontario

Answer: C.

4True or False: A Kentucky man was awarded $150,000 in damages when he sued the state for denying his request to have the licence plate "IM GOD."?
A. True
B. False

Answer: True

5True or False: The Nova Scotia Supreme Court denied Austrian-descendent Lorne Grabher’s bid to have a personalized “Grabher” licence plate. Justice Darlene Jamieson wrote, "The plate was recalled because the seven letters "GRABHER" could be interpreted as a socially unacceptable statement (grab her), without the benefit of further context indicating this was Mr. Grabher's surname."
A. True
B. False

Answer: True

6True or False: Tiny Prince Edward Island launched new plates in 2017. Using 3M technology (the same as Ontario), its new plates were a resounding success. In fact, PEI’s plate was nominated for “Best Licence Plate” by the Automobile Licence Plate Collectors Association.
A. True
B. False

Answer: True

7True or False: New York State unveils its new licence plate in April 2020. It features black lettering against a pitch-black background with the slogan “Excelsior” written in all black letters.
A. True
B. False

Answer: False

8True or False: The New York plates are made by inmates in the Auburn Correctional Facility in upstate New York.
A. True
B. False

Answer: True

9True or False: Ontario’s new licence plates are made by inmates with terrific senses of humour under the direction of Trilcor Industries.
A. True
B. False

Answer: True

10According to the Ministry of the Solicitor General, how do inmates benefit from the work?
A. They learn valuable skills that will serve them well upon release.
B. They learn the importance of unpaid labour.
C. They gain valuable skills that will, upon their release from prison, help them land jobs in Ontario’s white-hot licence plate manufacturing sector.

Answer: A.

11In 1928, Idaho issued the first licence plate slogan, “Idaho Potatoes,” which made sense since Idaho is known for growing potatoes. Ontario’s new slogan is a lyric taken from the 1967 anthem “A Place to Stand, a Place to Grow.” Why didn’t the Conservative government go with “A Place to Stand”?
A. Implies that Ontario is so bad you have to “stand” it.
B. “Grow” fits in with province’s pro-cannabis position.
C. Suggests standing for something which the government avoids.
D. None of the above.

Answer: D.

12Members of the general public, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada have all publicly expressed their concerns about the visibility of the licence plates. Which groups are happy about the plates?
A. Getaway drivers.
B. Highway 407 scofflaws.
C. Flaking and peeling liberal plates lobbyists.
D. All of the above.

Answer: D.

13What other designs is the Ontario government planning?
A. Cups with no bottoms.
B. Toothless combs.
C. I Can’t Believe They’re Not Pants. Pants.
D. Water-free Drinking Fountains.
E. The Ontario Line.

Answer: E.

14True or False: The City of Toronto reported that new licence plates “pose visibility challenges to both photo radar devices and red-light cameras.”
A. True
B. False

Answer: True

15 According to the Premier’s office, on how many “separate occasions” has Premier Doug Ford personally spoken to Penny Wise, the President of 3M Canada?
A. Two
B. One separate occasion and one slightly interdependent occasion.
C. Zero. Premier Ford personally spoke to the President of 3M Canada on three selfsame occasions.
D. Two but one of those separate occasions was impersonal.

Answer: A.

How did you do?

Answer all of the questions to see your result
Would you like to be the new Minister of Government and Consumers Services?
You possess average plate cognition.
You are a flaky, peeling Liberal disgrace.

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