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Ontario to launch police use of automated plate recognition technology, eliminate license renewal fees for non-commercial vehicles

Photo: Ottawa Police Services

Ontario is investing in Automated Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology, it announced February 22nd.  An ALPR system can read thousands of licence plates per minute allowing officers to process more information on licence plates. It also has the capability of capturing vehicles of interest such as amber alerts, drivers with a suspended licence, and stolen vehicles.

Automated/automatic license plate recognition systems capture computer-readable images that allow law enforcement to compare plate numbers against plates of stolen cars or cars driven by individuals wanted on criminal charges. The devices are mounted on police cars, road signs or traffic lights and capture thousands of images of plates.

The data collected can enhance law enforcement’s ability to investigate and enforce the law, but also raise concerns that the information collected may be inaccurate, placed into databases and shared without restrictions on use, retained longer than necessary, and used or abused in ways that could infringe on individuals’ privacy. Road Warrior News has requested information on the opinion of Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner on the implementation of ALPRs and will update this article with comment when it is received.

The Ontario government is also eliminating licence plate renewal fees and the requirement to have a licence plate sticker for passenger vehicles, light-duty trucks, motorcycles and mopeds, effective March 13, 2022.

Renewal fees and requirements for licence plate stickers for heavy commercial vehicles and snowmobiles remain unchanged.

Eliminating renewal fees will save vehicle owners $120 a year in southern Ontario and $60 a year in Northern Ontario for passenger and light commercial vehicles. Vehicle owners should update their address before March 7, 2022 in order to receive a refund for fees previously paid by the end of April 2022. Physical licence plate stickers have been eliminated in other jurisdictions in Canada including Quebec, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Manitoba and Alberta.

Drivers must continue to renew their driver’s licence every five years online or at a ServiceOntario centre and pay a $90 fee.

The government introduced red tape legislation on February 22nd that would enable the province to refund eligible individual owners of vehicles for any licence plate renewal fees paid since March 2020. Upon passage, vehicle owners will receive a cheque in the mail starting at the end of March and throughout the month of April.

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 at Ontario.ca/AddressChange by March 7, 2022, and pay any outstanding fees, fines or tolls. For more information and/or assistance with changing an address, vehicles owners can call ServiceOntario’s dedicated line at 1-888-333-0049.

Under the proposal, renewal fees will also be eliminated for passenger, light duty commercial vehicles, motorcycles and mopeds that are owned by a company or business. However, no refunds will be given for the period of March 2020 to March 2022.

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 and pay any outstanding Highway 407 tolls and other municipal fines. The government is working with partners to develop a new, more user-friendly process that will continue to validate automobile insurance requirements, support law enforcement efforts and collect municipal fines and unpaid Highway 407 tolls.