Government proposes permanent licence fee freeze

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

Anyone who frequently drives one of Ontario’s toll highways might find more money in their pocket in the future if the province passes a new piece of legislation.

The new legislation would work to amend the Public Transportation and Highway Improvement Act to, in part, prohibit the province from introducing new tools on provincial highways, and potentially require public consultation before considering new tolls. The ban would apply to the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway, as well as Ontario’s 400-series highways.

The province had previously cut the tolls on Highways 412 and 418, both North-South routes located in in Southern Ontario, in 2022, and the government estimates a grand total of $68-million in savings for drivers between 2022 and 2027.

“Our government under the leadership of Premier Ford is on a mission to keep costs down for families and businesses,” said Prabmeet Sarkaria, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation.

“First, we scrapped the tolls on Highways 412 and 418, now we’re protecting drivers from the costs of new tolls. Together with our cut in the gas tax and eliminating the licence plate sticker fee, we’re saving drivers hundreds of dollars every year.”

While road toll savings don’t necessarily impact many drivers in the north of the province, other proposals in the new legislation could. Along with axing road tolls, the province is looking to make the current freeze on driver’s licence and Ontario Photo Card fees a permanent one, which they say will add up to $66-million in savings for Ontarians over the next five years. The proposal will also ensure that any future increases can only be made through legislation.

Additionally, the government of Ontario is looking to automate the licence plate renewal process beginning this summer, saving vehicle owners in the province more than 900,000 hours each year, according to the government’s press release. The new automated process follows in the wake of the government’s move to eliminate the cost associated with renewing vehicle permits in the province, and will only apply to drivers in good standing who do not have outstanding fines or tickets once implemented.

“Until the automatic renewal process begins, drivers are still required to renew their licence plates at no cost, which can be done online or in person at ServiceOntario,” the province’s release states.

The proposed legislative changes are part of what the Ontario Conservatives are calling the Get It Done Act, a variety of measures the government is claiming would build on their commitments to date to streamline approvals for major infrastructure projects and housing, keep costs down for people and businesses and support economic growth for long-term prosperity.

“Our government is putting customers at the centre of everything we do to save people precious time and money,” said Todd McCarthy, Ontario’s Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery.

“We are constantly working to offer time-saving services such as automatic licence plate renewal, which we look forward to rolling out in the summer.”

The government expects the province’s population to grow by five-million people over the next decade, and is moving forward on several infrastructure projects to help relief traffic congestion in the southernmost parts of Ontario that will total more than $70-billion. While these projects will only benefit populations in the north of Ontario when they travel down to the Greater Toronto Area and beyond, the automating of the licence plate renewal process, and freezing licence fees for drivers, will help keep more money in the pockets of those in northwestern Ontario.