Ontario to scrap vehicle licence renewal fees, requirement for stickers

Ontario is scrapping vehicle licence plate renewal fees and the requirement for drivers to have a licence plate sticker effective March 13.

More than 7.5 million vehicle owners may be eligible for refund if new legislation passes

Premier Doug Ford said the government will also issue refunds to Ontarians who have renewed their licence plate stickers since March 2020. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Ontario is scrapping vehicle licence plate renewal fees and the requirement for drivers to have a licence plate sticker effective March 13.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday morning in Richmond Hill, Premier Doug Ford said the government will also be introducing red tape legislation that will allow Ontario to issue refunds to people who have renewed their licence plate stickers since March 2020.

This will apply to all passenger vehicles, light duty trucks, motorcycles and mopeds. Currently, renewal fees stand at $120 a year for passenger vehicles in southern Ontario, and $60 in the North. 

According to Ford, the move signifies $1 billion going back into the economy, and will still benefit the province because it will create a broader tax base.

More than 7.5 million vehicle owners will benefit from the renewal savings, Ford said. This includes those that are owned by businesses. However, the cuts will cost the province over $1 billion a year in lost revenue.

He says with the cost of living rising, his government is finding ways to reduce the burden "on the hard-working folks who need a break."

"These savings add up. That means a little more money in your pocket to help with groceries or pay bills," Ford said.

News comes as provincial election nears

The premier said he doesn't want to raise taxes, but Treasury Board president Prabmeet Sarkaria also said there will be no cuts to services to make up for the loss of revenue.

"I think like any other program that the government puts forward, we'll examine all fiscal implications of the program, as we have been internally," Sarkaria said after today's question period.

While NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she was not opposed to the elimination of the renewal fees, Liberal House Leader John Fraser said waiving the fees isn't enough to address affordability.

Green party leader Mike Schreiner said the announcement is just an election gimmick — the province heads to the polls in June — and the other opposition leaders are "playing footsie" with it.

"That is a billion-dollar election boondoggle that means less money for health care, less money for education, less money for affordable housing," he said.

The premier sounded less certain, however, about another affordability promise, saying he will "look into" cutting gas prices.

The two-day average price at the pump per litre has gone up in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I., according to the Canadian Automobile Association. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ford promised during the 2018 election to cut gas prices by 10 cents, with 4.3 cents coming from ending the previous Liberal government's cap-and-trade system.

The Progressive Conservatives did end cap and trade, but that meant the federal carbon tax backstop kicked in, negating savings at the pump. Ford's government tried fighting it in court, but lost. The provincial fuel tax rate remains unchanged from 2018.

Ford said as recently as November that he would fulfil the rest of the promise.

"We're going to commit to making sure that we cut 5.7 cents off before the next budget," he had said.

Getting a refund

To receive a refund cheque, vehicle owners who have moved recently will need to confirm that their address information on their vehicle permit or driver's licence is up-to-date on the province's portal by Mar. 7 and pay any outstanding fees, fines or tolls. 

Vehicle owners will still be required to renew their licence plate every one or two years at no cost to confirm their automobile insurance is valid. For businesses, no refunds will be given for the period of March 2020 to March 2022.

Renewal fees and requirements for licence plate stickers for heavy commercial vehicles and snowmobiles will remain the same.

The province has allowed people to use expired plate stickers since March 2020 to avoid having people gather in large groups at Service Ontario locations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With files from the Canadian Press


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