LILLEY: Taxpayers won't pay to replace faulty licence plates, say PCs

Share Adjust Comment Print

The online brochure reads like a bad late night infomercial boasting of a better product. Now with 700% more visibility!

Instead of a late night infomercial though, it’s the sales pitch from industrial giant 3M to provincial and state governments across the country. When it comes to making licence plates, the maker of everything from Scotch Tape to Post-It Notes promised the moon but apparently failed to deliver.

The Ford government announced on Thursday that existing plates made by 3M will be replaced, thankfully, not at the expense of taxpayers.

“Our government has been clear to 3M Canada that our expectation is they will cover the cost of the replacement licence plates,” Government Services Minister Lisa Thompson said in a statement.

As of the end of Feb. 19, 218,000 versions of the new plate had been produced and 49,000 had been issued to motorists. That’s a fair number of plates.

The government says it will rely on clauses in the contract that require the product to be free from defect or design deficiencies when delivered.

“Throughout this process, including design, manufacturing and testing, our government relied on the expertise of 3M Canada to meet the quality assurance standards agreed to in our contract,” Thompson said.

What exactly is in the contract we don’t know at this point but 3M isn’t shy about boasting about the wonders of their licence plates. Prior to Ontario picking them as the source of their new licence-plate technology, the company was already providing plates to Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan in addition to specialty plates for Quebec.

Some 13 states had already signed contracts with them as well, including California, Texas, Maine and Indiana. And no wonder so many jurisdictions have signed up with the company when you look at their promotional material on their website.

“The technology can help improve visibility to oncoming traffic by up to 700%,” 3M claims.

“Drivers and law enforcement officials alike get the benefit of improved visibility from further away – no need to get up close and personal,” the company states.

Related

The company’s sales pitch reads like one of those supplements that will cure everything that ails you or sounds like what you would hear from one of those knives that can cut a boat in half. A 700% improvement in visibility?

Unless, of course, you are in Ontario!

I get the Ford government botched the communications around this file. They should have come out on the first day and said that they take any concerns with the plates seriously and will investigate to make sure they function properly.

Instead, we had Thompson saying the new plates were fine, nothing wrong and besides, they replaced, “flaky Liberal plates.” It’s true that the old plates did peel and were flaky, they needed to be replaced. Calling them Liberal was juvenile, claiming the new plates were fine without looking into it was wrong.

Yet at the end of the day, the real problem with these plates doesn’t lie with the government, it lies with 3M. They are the experts in making plates, they sold the province a claim 700% better visibility.

It didn’t turn out to be true.

The government has been blamed for not testing this product enough, yet both the OPP and Hwy. 407 said they were consulted and had no issues with the plates. This isn’t new technology, the government should expect it to work as promised.

Let’s call this what it is, an embarrassment for the government and an expensive lesson for 3M on the limits of their wonderful technology.

Comments