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Ontario plans legal changes to tolls, licence renewals

As the Progressive Conservatives prepare for the house to return, the Minister of Transportation has unveiled more details of the government’s new, campaign-style legislation.

At an announcement on Thursday morning, Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria said he would propose a law to ban tolls on provincial highways and freeze the cost of driver’s licence renewals.

The new omnibus legislation — called the Get It Done Act — is also set to automate licence plate renewal for drivers with clean records and introduce the concept of referendums on future carbon taxes.

The changes will enshrine the changes in law — rather than regulation — to make them more complicated to reverse in future.

Highway tolls

The government said Thursday its new proposed legislation will ban tolls on all highways apart from Highway 407 and attempt to stop future governments from introducing tolls to highways without “public consultation.”

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The government also reiterated a promise made by Ontario Premier Doug Ford never to introduce tolls on either the Don Valley Parkway or the Gardiner Expressway, a commitment taken on by Queen’s Park in a November deal with the City of Toronto.

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The legislation, however, does not eliminate tolls from any existing highways.

Highway 407, which is run by a private company, will continue to charge vehicles that drive along it, with fees increasing in February for the first time since the pandemic.

Ahead of the 2022 election, the Ford government did remove tolls from Highway 412 and 418 in Durham Region, an idea it had initially decided to hold until it balanced the budget.

“First, we scrapped the tolls on Highways 412 and 418, now we’re protecting drivers from the costs of new tolls,” Sarkaria said.

“Together with our cut in the gas tax and eliminating the licence plate sticker fee, we’re saving drivers hundreds of dollars every year.”

The new law will also crystalize a promise not to levy tolls on either the Bradford Bypass or Highway 413, two signature road projects pushed by the Ford government.

Sarkaria said the new Get It Done Act will also make the current freeze on driver’s licence renewal costs permanent.

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The freeze is currently a regulation. By including it in law, the government says, it will be harder for future administrations to go back on the policy.

“We commend the government’s action to enact legislation that maintains the current freeze on fee increases for new and renewed driver’s licences and Ontario Photo Cards,” said Vince Accardi, president of the Ontario Motor Coach Association, in a statement distributed by the government.

“If passed, this will deliver long-term cost savings to the motor coach industry and professional bus drivers throughout Ontario.”

The new law will also automate licence plate renewals for drivers in good standing, something the province estimates could save 900,000 hours for vehicle owners every year.

Other parts of the legislation will focus on speeding up major infrastructure projects and cutting costs for people and businesses, the province said.

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