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Ontario government looking into visibility concerns around new licence plates

Some police say new Ontario licence plates hard to see
WATCH ABOVE: Some Ontario police and motorists say the province’s new licence plates are hard to read, especially at night. Seán O’Shea reports.

The Ontario government says they are looking into concerns surrounding the new provincial licence plates after a number of complaints were raised around visibility.

Consumer Services Minister Lisa Thompson said the province is looking into complaints about the new plates, which were just introduced weeks ago, but stressed they passed government testing ahead of their release.

“I can assure you that we have been exhaustive with our testing,” Thompson said on Tuesday.

“We have tested in terms of readability, reflectivity and durability on a whole host of weather conditions and they passed.”

READ MORE: Doug Ford government rebranding Ontario’s logo, slogans, licence plates

The problem was first raised publicly over the weekend by an off-duty Kingston police officer who posted a picture on social media of a plate in what he called a “relatively well-lit parking lot.”

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“Did anyone consult with police before designing and manufacturing the new Ontario licence plates?” Sgt. Steve Koopman wrote. “They’re virtually unreadable at night.”

A spokesman for the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police said on Tuesday that the group has been hearing from front-line officers and concerned citizens about the possible defect.

Joe Couto said the chiefs have relayed concerns about visibility to the government, along with anecdotal reports that some police services’ handheld scanners aren’t reading the new plates.

“Some officers are surprised and have been taking photos, saying this is what they’re looking at,” Couto said.

“It shows very clearly that, especially at night, there may be some visibility issues.”

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People have been commenting on the new licence plates on social media, complaining about the lack of visibility.

Global News reached out to 407 Express Toll Route and Kevin Sack, a spokesperson, said there have been no issues with the new plates.

On Feb. 1, regular series passenger licence plates were given the new design of a blue background and white writing, with the words “A Place to Grow,” stamped at the bottom.

Licence plates in Ontario were previously stamped with the phrase “Yours to Discover.” The slogan has been on most plates in the province since the early 1980s.

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Province ‘looking into’ visibility concerns over new Ontario licence plates
Province ‘looking into’ visibility concerns over new Ontario licence plates

The province unveiled the new plates last year, to replace an earlier version that was plagued by a defect that saw them peel and become difficult to read. The government said it had resolved the problem and would now guarantee the plates for life.

“The new licence plate is a … materially enhanced, effective product that will last longer for Ontarians,” former government services minister Bill Walker said at the time. “The plate will feature high-definition sheeting that is stronger and longer-lasting than Ontario’s current licence plate technology.”

The government also announced the slogan on commercial plates would be “Open For Business” – the same one used by Premier Doug Ford’s government dating back to the 2018 election campaign – while the passenger plate slogan would be “A Place To Grow.”

On Tuesday, Thompson slammed the “flaking and peeling Liberal plates” and accused the previous government of not working to solve the problem.

“We have gone through a rigorous testing program with our stakeholders to ensure that the new plates for Ontario are durable and are absolutely reflecting the key information that the people need to be seeing,” she said.

READ MORE: Ontario licence plate redesign in the works, source says

“They are actually very readable.”

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Thompson said the government takes the feedback from drivers and law enforcement officials seriously and is investigating the complaints.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said this government needs to do more to address the issue, which she said could affect the ability of police to respond to incidents involving impaired drivers or Amber Alerts.

“They goofed this up pretty bad, it’s pretty obvious,” she said. “They should take some responsibility for what they’ve done and ensure that we have licence plates that people can see.”

Green party Leader Mike Schreiner noted the government branded the new licence plates using their own political party’s colours, and said the redesign was reminiscent of the controversial anti-carbon tax gas pump stickers forced on service station owners last year.

Visibility concerns raised over new Ontario licence plates
Visibility concerns raised over new Ontario licence plates

A defect in some of those stickers reportedly caused them to peel off the pumps, Schreiner said, calling this apparent plate defect “poetic justice.”

“This is not the first politically-motivated rebranding exercise to backfire on the premier,” he said.

Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said Ontarians don’t care what their licence plates look like.

They “just want them to work, which means the police and public should be able to see them at night,” he said.

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– With files from Erica Vella and Travis Dhanraj

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New Ontario licence plates causing concerns
New Ontario licence plates causing concerns