Two years of travel plans nearly spoiled by new mail-out licences

The provincial government rolled out new driver’s licences and photo identification cards late last year, but one couple's travel plans were nearly ruined by the new process for getting them.

Service New Brunswick stopped printing IDs at its locations late last year, they’re now made in Ontario

Max Heffler and Jenny O'Connell sold their house and fixed up a 1992 Ford Econoline 150 for an epic voyage. Heffler was shocked when he went to get a new driver's licence and found out they now take 14 days to arrive. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

The provincial government rolled out new driver's licences and photo identification cards late last year, but some residents are still being tripped up by the new process for getting them.

Under the old system, a person could have their photo taken at Service New Brunswick branches and the card was printed on site.

With the new cards, introduced in the fall to prevent forgeries, the photo is still taken at the Service New Brunswick branch — but the card is printed at a facility in Burlington, Ont., and can take up to 14 days to arrive in the mail.

Although the change took effect last fall, one New Brunswick couple had no idea.

Max Heffler and Jenny O'Connell have been preparing for a major trip for two years. The couple renovated and sold their north-end Saint John home, fixed up a van, and started getting their ducks in a row for five months of rock climbing in the United States.

The only problem: Heffler was unaware of the driver's licence change until right before they were about to depart.

"Since I sold my house, we are living with Jenny's parents," said Heffler."So I had my address changed on everything." Heffler has updated his vehicle registration and health care to reflect his in-law's address, but needed to get a new driver's licence with the new information.

Heffler thought by going to Service New Brunswick early in the week, he would be able to avoid delays in getting his new ID. Then he found out they no longer print the cards on site.

"I asked, 'Is there any way to expedite this process?' and they said 'well there is, but the paperwork's already gone through,'" he said.

With a departure date planned for Feb.16, Heffler said he was unable to get a quick fix.

Service New Brunswick stopped printing the new licences late last November. Photos are still taken on site, but the cards are now printed in Burlington, Ont. (CBC)

"They do give you a temporary paper copy," said Heffler, which along with his old licence, he hopes will be enough. But there is a bigger problem when it comes to getting the hard copy of his card.

"We'll be moving around a lot and don't really have a place for it to be mailed to" he said

"It's a little bit of a pain, but if we do get pulled over, just having to explain the situation to people," he said. "It's not ideal."

Last year 250,145 hard copy licences were printed and issued at Service New Brunswick locations. Since the change in procedure in late November, 26,312 have been printed and mailed out.

Heffler was given a temporary paper ID card, but he said their plans to travel to different rock climbing destinations over the next five months will make mailing the new one impossible. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Heffler wishes the changes in the card policy had been better advertised to the public.

"For renewal licences, maybe they tell you that, but when you just go in, they really didn't say anything," he said.  

Heffler said even after the fact, looking on Service New Brunswick's webpage, details of the changes are hard to find.

"I certainly couldn't find it," he said.

Service New Brunswick's director of communications Valerie Kilfoil said a link was prominently displayed on the website until recently.

"I recently changed the main tile to Property Assessment since the new billing cycle is coming up," she said in an email.

Kilfoil said the link would be re-added to most popular links on the page.

About the Author

Matthew Bingley


Matthew Bingley is a CBC reporter based in Saint John.