POLITICS
02/28/2020 12:50 EST | Updated 02/28/2020 17:04 EST

Ontario Will Switch Back To 'Liberal' White Licence Plates Temporarily

An updated blue plate will start being made in two weeks.

TORONTO — Ontario’s problematic new licence plates will stop being manufactured on March 4, but the government won’t say what the root cause of the issue is or how it is being fixed.

The Progressive Conservative government has acknowledged there is a problem with the new plates that makes them difficult to read in the dark. The province announced Friday it has come up with a plan and timeline with manufacturer 3M Canada for resolving the issue.

Government and Consumer Services Minister Lisa Thompson said in a statement that the solution won’t cost taxpayers money.

“We take these concerns seriously and together have put a plan in place to deliver an enhanced new plate,” she wrote. “Manufacturing of the new enhanced plates is expected to begin within two weeks and they will be distributed shortly afterwards.”

Thompson insisted last week that her government’s redesign was better than the “status quo Liberal” plates that they replaced.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail
A white Ontario licence plate is seen in a stock photo.

She has not taken journalists’ questions about the debacle except for one day last week. When asked, government officials would not say how the problem is being fixed or what caused it.

The old white-and-blue plates will be issued starting March 5 until the updated ones are available for distribution the week of March 16. Law enforcement and other stakeholders will be testing prototypes of the updated plate, the government said.

The problem was first raised earlier this month when an off-duty police officer in Kingston, Ont., posted a picture of an unreadable plate in a well-lit parking lot at night.

A number of groups have expressed concerns about the impact the problem could have on public safety, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.

NDP transportation critic Jennifer French said the issue with the plates was first raised over the Family Day weekend, so it shouldn’t take until March 4 to stop producing them.

“They have known from the beginning that there was a problem,” she said. “So the fact that they are knowingly continuing to distribute these problematic plates for another week is not acceptable.”

The approximately 71,000 drivers who have the newer blue licence plates with the unspecified problem will be issued replacements. They will get instructions in the mail on how to replace those plates with the updated ones, and those will come with a new letter and number sequence, the government said.

Remaining stock of the problematic plate will be recycled, the government said.

The Progressive Conservatives revealed the new plates in the 2019 budget, saying the government spent $500,000 on a consultation on branding, but had a new contract for licence plate production that saved $4 million.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2020.

With a file from Emma Paling