ontario licence plates

Ontario's new blue licence plates have become a total joke

The hubbub surrounding Ontario's new "materially enhanced" blue licence plates — you know, the ones that police can barely see at night — continues to grow this week as government officials weigh in to defend themselves against what has come to be known as #PlateGate.

That's right; the licence plate mess has now earned itself a tongue-in-cheek hashtag, used by hundreds of people in recent days to discuss what's looking more and more like a complete failure on behalf of Doug Ford's PC government.

"Why is the government scrapping perfectly good white plates when their glowing propaganda plates are problematic?" asked Oshawa NDP MPP Jennifer French of the PCs during Question period at Queen's Park on Tuesday.

"I thought Ontario was a place to grow, not a place to glow."


French's fellow MPPs burst into laughter over her "glow" joke, which had been inspired by what French earlier called "weirdly reflective" licence plates.

Ontario's minister of government and consumer services, Lisa Thompson, attempted to defend the blue licence plates on Tuesday by saying that Ontario's standard white plates — "status quo Liberal plates," as she called them — had been peeling and flaking.

"I am pleased to share with you that the plates that have been introduced to this province, they're working," she said at the time. "They've been tested under a whole host of visibility conditions and we have absolute confidence in our plates."

On Wednesday afternoon, Thompson admitted that perhaps there is a problem with the plates after all, adding even more fuel to the garbage fire that is #PlateGate.

Thompson said at Queen's Park today that Premier Doug Ford's government is working with manufacturer 3M to find a solution to the problem of the unreadable plates, which started rolling out across Ontario on February 1.

The government has not yet announced any plans to pull the existing plates, concerning many who've either seen them in real life or seen footage of them shining brightly online.

Among those leery of the new design being widely used are City of Toronto officials, whose new photo radar cameras are reportedly having trouble reading the smaller "Ontario" marker on Ford's blue licence plates.

"An officer must be able to identify a vehicle's rear licence plate, including the name of jurisdiction, to lay a charge. This is a requirement to be able to prosecute under the law," said City transportation spokesperson Hakeem Muhammad to The Star by email today.

"The City will be exploring possible solutions with the (photo radar) device vendor if the readability of the new licence plates is confirmed to be an issue," Muhammad continued.

The city spokesperson did say that, while the assessment is just preliminary, the plates have presented "visibility challenges" for the automatic speed enforcement devices "during both day and night."

Twitter is loving the support.

Transit safety advocates continue to call for the plates to be recalled, redesigned and reissued in the name of protecting citizens.

"The night-time visibility issues with the new licence plates being reported by police and the public is a very serious concern," wrote Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada in a statement released Wednesday.

"The ability to clearly see the licence plates is obviously crucial if people need to call police to report suspected impaired drivers, or other dangerous drivers. MADD Canada joins those asking the Government of Ontario to review the visibility of these new plates at night."

Critics of the PC government, meanwhile, are having a blast holding up the debacle as an example of Ford's inability to lead effectively.

The licence plate situation has now morphed into its own running joke on Twitter — and this time the jokes go beyond how much they look like Q-tip boxes.

"Canada's province of Ontario has launched a new street-racer friendly license plate!" joked one Twitter user of the mess.

"Don't know about you but I think my new #Ontario license plate is hilarious and very creative," wrote another, including a photo of a pitch black block.

The one silver lining here may be that Ontario is getting some outside attention over the fiasco, fitting with Ford's push to make our province "open for business."

"Thank you Doug Ford for getting Ontario international attention!" wrote Liberal MPP Michael Couteau on Twitter, linking to an NPR article about the unreadable plates.

"How do you expect to be open for business if you can’t even get a license plate right? #PlateGate."

Lead photo by

Chris Cowley

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