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Do I need a licence plate renewal sticker on my paper permit?

A police officer pulls over a driver in Vancouver on Sept. 5, 2013.

BEN NELMS/The Globe and Mail

Recently, I got a ticket for not affixing the tiny renewal sticker on the back of the paper permit. I always put the stickers on my licence plate but I didn't know what the smaller stickers were for. There were no instructions. So, I just left them in the glove compartment. Everywhere else I lived, they called it a registration and it didn't need stickers. – Anwar, Toronto.

Here's a little sticker shock – Ontario's the only place where you need them on both your licence plate and the paper permit in the glove compartment.

"When validation is purchased the customer receives a sheet with both the [licence plate] valtag and permit sticker," the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) said in an e-mail. "The permit sticker provides a visual indicator of the current validity versus the date printed on the permit. Without the sticker, the permit could appear to be expired."

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Most other provinces – except Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec – require licence plate stickers to show that you've renewed your registration for the year. Ontario calls those plate stickers valtags. We couldn't find anywhere else that also uses stickers for the registration (which Ontario calls a permit).

Instead, most provinces, including Alberta, issue updated copies of the registration every year.

So, what are Ontario's rules exactly? The Highway Traffic Act only mentions licence plate stickers. But section six of Regulation 628 states: "Evidence of validation for a permit shall be affixed to a number plate for the vehicle in accordance with this Regulation, and the portion of the evidence of validation not intended for the number plate may be affixed in the appropriate space provided on the permit for the vehicle."

Driving with a validation improperly affixed is an $86 fine with no demerits. The province didn't have the specific number of people convicted for driving without the sticker on their permit.

But, if you did have the proper sticker on your plate, the charge for not having one on your paper permit might not, er, stick, said Kevin R. Burrows, a Toronto traffic lawyer.

"Technically, there is an obligation to affix it to the paper portion as well [but] there is a good chance a prosecutor would not proceed on that charge," Burrows said in an e-mail.

Stuck in the past?

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The MTO said the stickers on both the licence plate and permit have been around since 1973. And, they come with instructions, it said.

"The sheet that contains both the valtag and the permit sticker contains instructions for both." it said. "The instructions for the permit sticker are found under the stickers. The instructions read: 'Afix this sticker to the back of vehicle permit.' "

While the MTO's website gives instructions for applying the plate sticker, we couldn't find any mention of the permit stickers.

Ontario is considering the elimination of both the plate stickers and the permit stickers, said Aleks Dhefto, a ServiceOntario spokesman, in an e-mail.

"Provided this program moves forward, drivers would no longer need to get a physical validation tag or plate sticker as proof of vehicle registration," Dhefto said. "Under the proposed plan that forms the basis of the consultation, customers would continue to be required to renew their vehicle registration online, by mail, and in person."

The elimination of stickers wouldn't mean the elimination of renewal fees, which are now $120 in Southern Ontario and $60 in Northern Ontario.

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Quebec hasn't used stickers since 1992. Saskatchewan ditched them in 2012. Manitoba followed in 2016.

Instead of hunting for stickers, those provinces rely solely on automated licence plate recognition (ALPR), where cruiser-mounted infrared cameras snap photos of up to 3,000 plates an hour.

And Ontario, like most other provinces, is already using ALPR to catch people with expired plates and expired driver's licences anyway.

"Currently, vehicle registration is recorded in the Ministry of Transportation's Licensing Control System (LCS), the official record for driver and vehicle data," Dhefto said. "Law enforcement agencies have some access to LCS and can use it to check for compliance."

Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com. Canada's a big place, so please let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

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Toyota’s Mirai hydrogen fuel cell cars will make their Canadian debut in Quebec this year. Provincial Energy Minister Pierre Moreau says two stations to produce and supply the fuel will open in the fall. The Canadian Press
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