Government confirms about 178,000 blue licence plates still on the road

There are more blue licence plates on Ontario roads than previously reported and the government is still working on a plan to replace them, CBC News has learned.

The province says about 193,000 blue plates were issued and there are just under 178,000 on the road today. When they were officially scrapped, officials said 145,000 of the plates (which appear to be all in the CM-range) had been distributed.

The Ministry of Government Consumer Affairs refused to provide the current number of plates when CBC News published a story on warnings that went ignored when the plates, which pose serious visibility issues in certain lighting conditions, were rolled out in 2020.

Look around and it’s not hard to spot blue plates in highway traffic or on city side streets. This reporter has also seen them on official city vehicles and Toronto police SUVs alike.

After sending a series of follow-up emails about the total number of plates, officials provided the updated figure this week.

Government still working on replacement plan

The government hasn’t said when Ontario drivers will be able to replace their blue plates. 

“Blue licence plates remain valid and our government is developing a process to allow Ontarians to seamlessly replace them when the time comes,” said Jennifer Lipkus, a spokesperson for the minister of government and consumer services.

“We continue to encourage Ontarians not to visit a ServiceOntario centre to exchange their licence plates at this time unless they are lost, stolen, or damaged.”

Lipkus also confirmed the province had received 218,000 plates from the manufacturer, 3M Canada, but that not all of them were used.

In September, the government reinstated renewal requirements for driver’s licences, health cards, and licence plate stickers, triggering a huge rush of people needing updated documents. There’s also a backlog when it comes to road tests.

The blue plates, which were meant to symbolize a new government of “progress, growth, and prosperity,” according to government house leader Paul Calandra, were scrapped after widespread criticism.

Premier Doug Ford, by then dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, said he was “just not ready to put any more resources toward this,” as he abandoned the redesign in favour of the classic blue text on white plate design.

‘Virtually unreadable’

The government was immediately slammed with concerns about how hard the plates are to see at night when they hit the road.

Ontarians called them “virtually unreadable” in documents obtained through a freedom of information request, and warned that would make it difficult to report dangerous drivers. Police officers also warned the government the plates posed a risk.

CBC News also found out through that request that the government’s rollout of the plates left some organizations, including the Canada Border Services Agency, wondering if their technology would work with the blue design. Others recommended tweaks to the design in the lead-up to the release, but the government didn’t act on the advice.

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