11/10/2011 05:24 EST | Updated 01/10/2012 05:12 EST

Alberta to issue special motorcycle licence plates for war veterans

CALGARY - Albertans who served their country in the Canadian Forces will be able to display veterans licence plates on their motorcycles starting in April.

It's an expansion of a provincial program that allows veterans to get special plates for their vehicles. Nearly 21,000 plates have been issued since the program began in February 2005.

Service Alberta Minister Manmeet Bhullar says citizens owe a lot to veterans for the freedoms and rights they enjoy and the province is happy to provide another way of showing appreciation.

Alberta will be the third province to offer special veterans plates for motorcycles.

Last year, the Alberta government expanded eligibility to include current Canadian Forces members with at least three years of service.

Plates are also available to retired forces members who have been honourably discharged, as well as to members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or other Canadian police departments who served under NATO or the United Nations.

Heather Forsyth, a critic for the Wildrose party, said the government should also have scrapped a fee imposed on veterans in the last budget. They are now charged $14 when applying for and renewing their specialized plates.

"It was wrong to nickel and dime our brave veterans like this in the first place," Forsyth said in a release. "It would have been a nice gesture to them to reverse the hike today."