#PlateGate ends: Why is Doug Ford's 'A Place to Grow' license plate design cancelled?

Yahoo News Canada

What’s happening?

After months of admitted failures, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has put a full stop to making a changeover to the province’s license plates after the newly designed two-toned blue plates were deemed unreadable at night. 

“After thorough testing by law enforcement and other key stakeholders, we are following their advice and will not be moving forward with the new plate for passenger vehicle use,” said Ford in a press release from his office.

Going back to 2019’s provincial budget, the Ford government had earmarked half a million dollars for consultation on the branding of the licence plates which embodied the colours of his Progressive Conservative party and featured a new slogan reading “A Place To Grow.”

Approximately 145,000 new plates had been manufactured and were awaiting final testing, while some drivers had already received the new plates. The government added they plan to use the plates for alternative use, such as trailers and recreation vehicles, and Ontarians should not visit Service Ontario at this time due to COVID-19.

Why is there debate?

#PlateGate began trending as many started dubbing the license plates an instant failure after videos surfaced of the lettering on the plate being essentially unreadable at night when someone shined a light at them. 

The obvious security concerns by law enforcement and advocacy groups were echoed on social media, and eventually heard by the Ford government.

“Under very specific lighting conditions, stakeholders identified visibility issues due to glare. As a result, further work is needed. As such, the premier has decided that the redesign of the new license plate will no longer proceed,” said Ford in a press release. 

The license plate debacle was seen by critics of Premier Ford as a vanity ploy to show his party colours and overall a poorly thought out decision. At the time, NDP Leader, Andrea Horwath wrote to the Auditor General asking for an inquiry about the costs and need of the license plates.

“I am requesting your office undertake a review of all costs related to the production and replacement of the defective plates, and the nondisclosure agreement,” Horwath said in the letter to Bonnie Lysyk.

At the time, Ford’s government said:

“There is no cost. Zip. Zero,” for the license plates and that manufacturer 3M was fielding the cost. He also boasted about how the plates were an improvement on the previous Liberal government’s design. 

The creation of the plates were apparently quite personal to Premier Ford, as reporting by The Toronto Star’s Robert Benzie indicated that Ford was directly involved in picking the colour schemes.  When he was questioned about the failures at the time, Ford became short with reporters for constantly pressing him on the issue and snapped at them.

What’s next?

Right now the Ford government is content on cancelling the project and putting their attention towards the COVID-19 pandemic. Ford remarked that he just didn’t want to put anymore resources into the project, and was okay sticking with the “Yours to Discover” white license plate from the Liberal government years. 

While there was sense of eagerness from Ford to put the debacle behind him, Horwath’s request of the auditor general is still pending, and some Liberal MPPs don’t seem as willing to move on from the saga and have posed questions seeking to learn the ‘actual’ costs of #PlateGate. Only time will tell if the true cost faced by Ontarians was only $500K, or if there’s more to be uncovered.

Perspectives 

“Ford’s #plategate vanity project endangered law enforcement efforts & drivers, and siphoned time & money away from priorities like long-term care. Months ago I asked the auditor to look into this misadventure because no one believes the claim it didn’t cost taxpayers anything..” — Andrea Horwath, Ontario NDP Leader via Twitter

“What are you hiding Doug Ford? Ford government should reveal the true cost of scraping the redesigned licence plates and stop hiding behind the defence of a signed agreement with 3M.” — Michael Coteau, Ontario Liberal MPP for Don Valley East via Twitter

“The premier quietly conceded defeat in a news release before his daily briefing, admitting what his government initially denied.

Pre-pandemic, “Plate-gate” symbolized all that was wrong with his Progressive Conservative government: style over substance, branding over governing, hubris over humility.” — Martin Regg Cohn, Columnist for the Toronto Star

“Such a mess. @fordnation is backing it up... all the way to the beginning. We are where we started. Still waiting for answers on costs & accountability... & many folks are wondering about their replacement plates. Still no answer from Min Thompson. #plategate becomes #plexit.” Jennifer French, NDP MPP for Oshawa, via Twitter

“Doug Ford’s disastrous blue/ Q-tips license plates have officially been scrapped. 145,000 of these faulty plates have been manufactured, and the Premier insists (most likely lying) that this mess “would not cost taxpayers a penny.” — Tyler Watt via Twitter

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