Ontario says it wants to ban new highway tolls, have automatic licence plate renewals by summer

16 February 2024
Ontario says it wants to ban new highway tolls, have automatic licence plate renewals by summer


The Ontario government said Thursday it plans to ban new tolls on provincial highways and that it hopes to have an automatic licence plate registration system in place by summer.

Minister of Transportation Prabmeet Sarkaria said the proposed prohibition on new tolls will be included in omnibus legislation set to be tabled when the legislature resumes for its spring sitting next week.

It would apply to all provincial highways, including 400 series highways, as well as the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway once they come under the province’s control. The uploading of both the Gardiner and DVP to the province were part of a new funding deal agreed by Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow earlier this year.

Sarkaria said at a morning news conference that Highway 407 would not be included in such a ban since it is “privately-owned.”

While the stretch of the 407 from Burlington in the west to the border of Pickering and Ajax in the east is owned by a consortium of corporations and a pension fund, the length from Ajax to Clarington is owned by the province and tolled.

In response to questions from CBC Toronto, a spokesperson for Sarkaria said the policy would only apply to new tolls, implying existing tolls on the provincially owned portion of Highway 407 would remain in place.

According to Ontario’s auditor general, the province earned $47.7 million from Highway 407 tolls in the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

Ford’s government previously eliminated tolls on Highway 412 in Whitby and Highway 418 just west of Bowmanville.

Sarkaria also officially announced that the province plans to scrap the requirement for drivers to re-register their licence plates online each year, with the process being done automatically instead.

The measure will be included as part of the same omnibus bill to be introduced next week. Ford revealed the proposed change at an unrelated news conference on Tuesday.

As CBC Toronto previously reported, the automatic renewal will be limited to drivers in “good standing,” meaning they have no unpaid fines for violating the Highway Traffic Act.

“We’re looking to have this implemented by the summer,” he told reporters, adding that until then drivers are still expected to renew their licence plates online.

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.

Sarkaria also announced that a freeze on the cost of renewing a driver’s licence, in place since 2019, will be made permanent if the legislation passes.

Source: cbc

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