Toronto

Ford government admits new licence plates 'absolutely' a problem, will need to be recalled

The Ontario government says it will eventually have to recall newly issued licence plates that are difficult to read in low light.

No timeline provided for recall and the province continues to distribute faulty plates to drivers

Ontario's new licence plates went into circulation in Feb. 1. Some law enforcement officers and members of the public have complained that the characters are not visible at night or when illuminated in some light conditions. (Sgt. Steve Koopman/Twitter)

The Ontario government says it will eventually have to recall newly issued licence plates that are difficult to read in low light.

Progressive Conservative House leader Paul Calandra said the move will need to be made once the problem with the plates is fixed by the manufacturer, 3M Canada.

"Are the licence plates a problem? Absolutely. We procured something with 3M; we expect them to fix the problem," Calandra told reporters at Queens Park on Thursday. 

"We bought something and we want them to fix it and it is obviously very, very important to us — the safety and security of Ontarians."

For the second straight day, Minister of Government and Consumer Services Lisa Thompson avoided speaking to the media after question period. On Tuesday, she repeatedly defended the plates, saying that the government "absolutely" had confidence in them.

Calandra did not provide a timeline for the recall and acknowledged the province continues to distribute the faulty plates to drivers.

The problem was first raised over the weekend when an off-duty Kingston police officer posted a picture of an unreadable plate in a well-lit parking lot at night.

Progressive Conservative House Leader Paul Calandra spoke with reporters at Queen's Park on Thursday. (CBC)

Calandra said the province currently has a supply of older model plates it could provide to drivers, but it's hoping to avoid switching back to the previous version.

"These plates were tested extensively and we did work with a broad number of stakeholders. Some problems have been identified [and] we are working very closely with 3M," he said. 

"The people of Ontario invested in something, we want 3M to correct the problem and we're hoping not to have to use some of the plates that we have in reserve."

On Thursday 3M Canada said it is working with the Ontario government to fix the visibility problems.

"We stand behind our products and are actively providing solutions to the Ontario Government to address the readability issue as quickly as possible," the company wrote in an email to CBC Toronto.

Premier Doug Ford's office could not immediately say how many of the new plates have been distributed since they were initially released in early February.

Earlier this week it also emerged that Toronto's new photo radar program may be off to a slow start after preliminary data from the city suggests the font size for the word "Ontario" on the new plates can't be seen by the cameras.

A spokesperson for the city said staff could not provide a "conclusive evaluation" because the photo radar cameras have only come across a small number of the new plates, but so far the smaller font size of the jurisdiction name — Ontario — has some "visibility challenges," especially at night. 

For now, the city is going back to the photo radar vendor to see what can be done to improve the cameras.

With files from Natalie Nanowski and The Canadian Press

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