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Scrapping front licence plates could make it harder to fight crime, police chiefs warn

The province’s police chiefs are worried a possible move by the government of Ontario to eliminate the requirement for front licence plates could jeopardize public safety.

The province is considering it for fiscal reasons, according to the premier’s office and the minister responsible. If the government goes ahead, Ontario would be one of the last provinces to make the move.

“The analysis is being done as we speak,” said Minister of Government and Consumer Services Bill Walker.

“If there’s value for the people … we’re going to go forward.”

Public safety

But at least one policing association is against the potential move.

“If you eliminate half the licence plates in the province you’ll eliminate half the opportunities for us to be able to identify people involved in crime,” said Jeff McGuire, executive director of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.

“I can’t think of a single negative to having a licence plate on the front and the back of your vehicle.”

McGuire said two plates help solve violent crimes, amber alerts, hit and runs, and even assist in counter-terrorism as police collect video evidence from a variety of sources, including storefronts, home security videos and dashboard cameras.

“There’s lots of [other] ways to save money,” he said.

Few provinces left

Ontario is one of the few provinces in Canada that mandates two plates, along with British Columbia and Manitoba.

New Brunswick recently scrapped the requirement in its budget, and the chiefs of police in that province also raised concerns.

In the U.S., 19 states require one licence plate, while 31 and Washington D.C. require two. Violating licence laws can result in a traffic ticket.

‘Not the most important thing’

Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser criticized the government, urging it to focus on issues like health care and education.

“The thing we should be talking about right now are not licence plates or tailgating or beer and wine in convenience stores,” he said.

“It’s not the most important thing.”

Meanwhile, the NDP’s deputy leader wasn’t as critical, noting his riding of Timiskaming-Cochrane shares a border with Quebec. “Our local shopping mall is half Quebec people with no front licence plate,” he said.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner was supportive. “It means less manufacturing of those metallic plates, which could save money and resources.”

As for how the 407 ETR toll road in the Greater Toronto Area would adapt, as it relies on licence plates for billing, Schreiner said said technology could adapt. The Ministry of Transportation did not immediately provide a response.

Schreiner noted he does not support the government redesigning the province’s trillium logo or changing the slogan on licence plates.

The PC government recently confirmed it was considering changing the slogan on commercial plates from “Yours to Discover” to “Open for Business.”

Details about the slogan will be revealed in the upcoming budget April 11. Government sources say the decision about ditching the front licence plate will likely be made at a later time.

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