Over the last few weeks, there has been some licence plate drama in my home province of Ontario.
Even as I write this, I can’t believe I’m using “licence plate” and “drama” in the same sentence.
It all started in April of last year when the Ontario government announced that it would be introducing a new driver’s licence plate design and licence renewal process. The new licence plate would feature a blue background with white lettering and numbers and would replace the old plate that, for decades, had a white background with dark blue letters and numbers.
The purpose of these changes is to enhance the quality, design and production of plates in a way that would also save taxpayers millions of dollars each year. According to Bill Walker, the Minister of Government and Consumer Services, the changes were symbolic of an entirely new approach to governing. The new plates featured a more contemporary design, a new logo and new slogans, including “A Place to Grow” for passenger plates, and “Open for Business” for commercial plates.
When I first heard of the proposed changes, I was a little confused. I wasn’t aware that licence plates required a redesign. The old plates did their job and lasted quite a long time. Furthermore, considering all the challenges that the government was trying to address, like health care and education, I was surprised this would be a priority. Given my experience with leaders of large organizations, to me, this felt like a change for the sake of change. It did not take long for my concerns to come to fruition.
The new plates officially launched on February 1 of this year, and almost immediately, a significant defect became apparent: the new plates are not visible at night. Police officials, who were not consulted about the new design, said that officers would be hampered because they could not identify a plate number at certain times of the day and night. Several groups, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada and the Ontario Chiefs of Police, gave the plates a failing grade.