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First started as "My 2 Cents" in 1997, I have written posts numbering into the hundreds. It will take some time to resurrect the older posts, so keep checking back. They will include meet reports, travelogues, and news of interest to Ontario licence plate collectors.

Open for Business: Could Ontario be re-plating?

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

According to multiple media reports today, the slogan “Open For Business” is under consideration for Ontario’s truck plates. Simon Jefferies (Premier Doug Ford’s media relations director) was quoted in the Toronto Star as saying, “While no decision has been made, that is a slogan the Government for the People is considering for commercial vehicles only.” [1]

It has not yet been clarified as to whether that would include only regular truck plates——like the kind that your buddy’s old pickup wears——or encompass other black-and-white plate types, like PRP, bus and farm.

The Toronto Star article went on to mention that this proposal will “eventually impact the blue-on-white passenger vehicle plates,” although no direct quote from Jefferies or any other official was included to corroborate this statement. [1] Global News received a brief statement from an unnamed insider, stating “The plan as it stands right now is for all vehicles; it’s not just about commercial vehicles.” [2]

An internal provincial cabinet memo, which was acquired by the Toronto Star, reportedly states that this proposal “...will see us refresh a licence plate design that’s been relatively unchanged since the 1960s and——depending on the slogan chosen——help to rebrand Ontario as a business-friendly province.” [1]

Well, let me put my plate geek hat on, and pontificate. 1965 was the year that the familiar royal blue and white made its debut on Ontario plates. The colours alternated each year until 1972, before the background went white for good. But regardless of the early colour alternation, passenger car plates have been stuck with blue and white since ‘65. Does the memo imply that the colour of Ontario’s plates will be changing? I don’t see that happening, given that blue is the dominant colour of the reigning Ontario PC party, and further given that the Ontario Provincial Police has a track record of resisting major design changes to Ontario’s plates over the past decades (Indeed, we’re still using a passenger numbering scheme that was introduced in 1973 and extended further with each trip through the alphabet).

The same article went on to imply that Ontario’s days as a two-plate province may be numbered, with the front plate going by the wayside. An unnamed source was quoted as saying, “There’s no need for them anymore.” [1]

A subset of car owners has long despised Ontario’s front plate, as they never look new for long, and they disrupt the sexy, front-end lines of one’s souped-up Audi or Acura. If Ontario is to dump the front plate, there would no doubt be a plethora of them that would be unceremoniously detached from their mother-ships. Would they be tossed out, or be hung as decoration? Would owners be required to turn them in? Or… are we about to see a full re-plate in Ontario, for the first time since 1973?

That would make sense on a number of levels. Ontario’s numbering system is clogged with decades worth of permutations, most of which have long expired and will never again see the light of day. We’ve gone to seven-character plates as the six-character permutations have been exhausted. Small plates, such as those for motorcycles and ATVs, are limited to five characters, and when that runs out, there will be no room for a sixth.

It’s not just that Ontario is running out of room on the plates themselves. The Ministry of Transportation vehicle database was created in the early 1980s, and they’re still using the very same database today. It’s creaking and groaning under its weight. In my time of operating my YOM business,, I’ve spoken with the MTO folks who have to use that database on a daily basis. It’s limited in what it can do. There have been duplicate entries where two owners have been assigned the same number. Errors crop up where arguments mismatch and YOM numbers can’t be issued. The database can’t even create new YOM ownerships for motorcycle owners of model years 1976-1980, even though it’s supposed to. What the MTO sorely needs is a new database. Perhaps the easiest way to do that is to limp along with the old one until a new one is built and ready, do a province-wide re-plate, and just archive any unneeded info. There’s no need to have a current record of old Elmer Schmautz’s plate number on his 1982 Thunderbird, if the Thunderbird was scrapped by 1990. Maybe old Elmer didn’t even live to see the turn of the millenium.

I am not a fan of the Doug Ford PC government. Without running away on a tangent, I will simply say that his educational proposals, if passed as-are, would cause major setbacks in the classroom where I teach special-needs kids each day (read about my job here if you care). The “Open For Business” slogan, if adopted, would be a contentious issue, since Ford has used that motto for his own campaign purposes. Ford's opponents are already none too pleased that his government spent $106,000 to erect 25 “Open For Business” signs at Ontario’s entry points. But I suppose, as a plate collector, I’m so bored with Ontario being Mine To Discover that I’d welcome pretty much any change at this point, although I don't want to see front plates disappear. I find the prospect of a full re-plate to be quite compelling. Even if it’s not a full re-plate, perhaps we have just a design refresh on the way, which would be nice. And even if that’s not in the cards, a new slogan would give me something else to watch for, and eventually, collect.


Footnotes: [1] Benzie, Robert. "Ford government contemplating change to licence plate slogan". The Toronto Star / Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved March 30, 2019.

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