Ontario To Ban Highways Tolls, Implement Automatic Licence Plate Renewals By Summer

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The Ontario government unveiled plans on Thursday to prohibit tolls on provincial highways and implement an automated license plate registration system by summer. Minister of Transportation Prabmeet Sarkaria revealed that the toll ban would be part of comprehensive legislation to be introduced in the upcoming spring session.

This toll prohibition is set to encompass all provincial highways, including the 400 series highways, the Gardiner Expressway, and the Don Valley Parkway upon being under the province’s jurisdiction. The transfer of control for the Gardiner and DVP was part of a funding agreement between Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow earlier this year.

Highway 407 will be exempt from the toll ban as it remains privately owned, clarified Minister Sarkaria during a morning news conference. Ford’s government had previously eliminated tolls on Highway 412 in Whitby and Highway 418 just west of Bowmanville.

Additionally, Minister Sarkaria confirmed the province’s intention to eliminate the mandatory annual online license plate re-registration. The process will be automated and included in the same omnibus bill scheduled for introduction next week. The proposal was initially disclosed by Ford at a separate news conference on Tuesday.

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Automatic renewal, however, will be limited to drivers in “good standing,” defined as those without unpaid fines for violating the Highway Traffic Act. Municipalities will retain the ability to use the re-registration process for collecting outstanding fines, Minister Sarkaria mentioned.

The implementation of these changes is targeted for the summer, he informed reporters, emphasizing that drivers should continue renewing their license plates online until the automated system is in place.

The government had abolished the $120 license plate registration fee in 2022. Consequently, law enforcement officials noted a decrease in annual renewals, with over a million expired license plates reported on Ontario roads by The Toronto Star on Monday.

Minister Sarkaria also announced that if the legislation passes, the freeze on the cost of renewing a driver’s license, in effect since 2019, will become permanent.

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