Ford government to scrap online licence plate renewal, will be done automatically instead

The Ontario government says it intends to scrap the requirement for drivers in the province to re-register their licence plates online each year, with the process being done automatically instead.

Premier Doug Ford unexpectedly revealed the impending change at a Tuesday morning news conference ostensibly held to announce legislation that would require any future government to hold a referendum before introducing a provincial carbon tax.

Both measures will be included in an omnibus bill set to be introduced in the legislature next week, Ford said. He could not say when the revised licence plate registration system would come into effect. 

A provincial government official told CBC Toronto that automatic re-registration will apply to vehicle owners whose driving records are in good standing, meaning they have no outstanding fines for violating the Highway Traffic Act

Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria will announce more details of the plan at a news conference later this week, the official said.

Ford’s government eliminated the $120 licence plate registration fee in 2022, and since then, law enforcement officials have said that far fewer drivers are remembering to renew each year. The Toronto Star reported Monday that there are more than one million expired licence plates on Ontario roads.

The coming bill, called the Get It Done Act — an allusion to Ford’s 2022 campaign slogan — will also include measures to “build on the government’s commitments to date to streamline approvals for major infrastructure projects and housing,” the province said.

The pending legislation comes ahead of the release of the 2024 provincial budget, which must be tabled before the end of March.

Ford uses announcement to take digs at Crombie

Ford used the news conference in Mississauga to take several shots at Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie, who was until recently the mayor of that city, and who recent polls suggest could pose a threat to Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in the next election.

Since Crombie became the front-runner in the Liberal leadership race in the fall, Ford and his caucus have often attacked the now-leader of the third place party, rather than spending time talking about the Official Opposition NDP.

Ford has dubbed Crombie “the queen of the carbon tax,” suggesting she championed it when she was a federal Liberal MP. Ford parroted language used in PC attack ads against her.

In a statement, Crombie repeatedly referred to Ford as “Desperate Doug” and said he is trying to distract Ontarians from his “failures, flip flops and scandals.

“Let’s be clear: Doug Ford would sooner drag Ontario backwards just to enrich his well-connected insiders, than come up with a climate plan of his own. He’s cost Ontario families real money by cancelling proven programs like the electric-vehicle rebate, conservation programs and incentives for energy-efficiency retrofits.” Crombie said.

“If he was actually interested in hearing what Ontarians thought, he would have held a referendum before selling off our healthcare system, the Greenbelt, and ServiceOntario,” she continued.

The carbon pricing referendum legislation would just refer to provincial measures, not the federal carbon pricing system that went into effect in Ontario after Ford’s government cancelled the previous provincial Liberal government’s cap-and-trade program.