Barrelling forward with his controversial replacement of “Yours to Discover” on Ontario licence plates, Premier Doug Ford insists people in the province will welcome the change.
And Ford’s Progressive Conservatives admit that partisan political considerations are one reason for a new slogan.
“People across this province want change. They voted for change and they’re getting change,” the premier told the legislature Tuesday.
“Changing the licence plates doesn’t cost a penny to the taxpayers. They are still producing the plates. It’s going to be the same cost.”
As first disclosed by the Star and Global News last Friday, the Conservative government is changing the motto that’s adorned plates since 1982.
“Open For Business,” is being considered for the black-on-white commercial plates used by trucks and other industrial vehicles.
But the Tories are looking at different slogans for the blue-on-white passenger vehicle plates with hopes of unveiling revised designs in Finance Minister Vic Fedeli’s April 11 budget.
Government and Consumer Services Minister Bill Walker conceded there is a political aspect to the change since the Tories won power from the Liberals last June.
“After 15 years of disastrous Liberal mismanagement — supported, frankly, by the NDP — we want to make sure people understand there is a new government. We are actually open for business,” said Walker.
“We want to make sure that Premier Ford just came in (and) 95,000 jobs have been created — that’s more than the United States. We want to ensure we continue to let the world know that,” he said, referring to Ontario’s continuing jobs boom that began under former premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals.
“I think you always want to look, when you come in after 15 years of disastrous management by the Liberals, to say: ‘Is it time to take a look at things. Is there a fresh breath of air?’”
Former premier Bob Rae, whose NDP government retained the “Yours to Discover” slogan created by Bill Davis’s Tories and continued by David Peterson’s Liberals, panned Ford’s plan.
“I’ve knocked on thousands of doors over four decades in public life,” Rae wrote on Twitter.
“No one has ever, ever, ever demanded a change in the licence plate, and in particular no one has ever, ever, ever suggested we change it to an empty hot air political slogan.”
Green Leader Mike Schreiner said “this is such a ridiculous waste of taxpayers’ money.”
“I don’t know of anyone who wants to change the slogan on our licence plates and it’s completely inappropriate if the government does it in a way that promotes one of their own campaign slogans,” said Schreiner.
Interim Liberal leader John Fraser the Tories are bogged down in “a continual campaign” instead of focusing on governing.
“The government’s supposed to govern,” said Fraser.
NDP MPP Taras Natyshak (Essex) blasted Ford for his “vanity project.”
“This is probably one of those ideas that sounds good when you’re reclining in the back seat of your personal pleasure wagon on the leather couch,” said Natyshak, in reference to the premier’s office’s abandoned bid to get Ford an OPP van equipped with $50,000 in custom upgrades, including a TV and a minifridge.
“But to people facing the loss of good-paying union jobs in Windsor, it sounds like a tone deaf premier and a government without a plan. How can the premier tell a working mom who just lost their job that their plan to save jobs is a cheesy catchphrase on a licence plate?”
As previously reported by the Star, the government is also considering an end to front licence plates as is the practice in Quebec and many American states.
“This initiative will see us refresh a licence plate design that’s been relatively unchanged since the 1960s and — depending on the slogan chosen — help to rebrand Ontario as a business-friendly province,” according to an internal government document.
The Tories have already spent $106,000 to replace “Yours to Discover” on 25 border-crossing signs with “Open For Business.”
Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie