Premier Doug Ford is privately seething over his government’s flawed licence plates, Progressive Conservatives confide.
Ford has not held a news conference since it emerged last week that the new double-blue plates give off glare under certain lighting conditions and cannot be read easily at night.
But Tory insiders, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations, said the premier, who ran his family’s label-printing company before entering politics, is livid.
“He’s very unhappy with this,” a Tory said as the governing party held its Tuesday caucus meeting.
“It’s totally embarrassing,” said another insider.
At the party’s convention in Niagara Falls last weekend, the faulty plates were widely mocked by PC delegates.
Some fingers are being pointed at Government and Consumer Minister Lisa Thompson, who ducked reporters Tuesday after the legislature’s daily question period.
Ford, who sits one row ahead of Thompson in the house, turned to closely watch his embattled minister answer opposition questions on the fiasco.
“You have to understand, this is something really important to him and he understands why people are up in arms,” said a third Tory.
Another Conservative wryly noted the premier is a populist who listens to Newstalk 1010 and AM640 where hosts and callers are having a field day with the imbroglio.
Last Wednesday, in his only public comment so far on the debacle, Ford told Global News’ Travis Dhanraj that “you almost had to peel me off the roof” after first hearing about the visibility issues.
“They had to pull me off the ceiling,” Ford said when he read about the stickers’ adhesive problems.
In the legislature, Thompson said the government is “taking action with our partners,” 3M, which manufactured the plates.
“I’m so appreciative of the fact that our partners are working around the clock to address what we’ve heard. I can assure you that 3M is working diligently alongside us to … address the concerns that have been shared,” she said.
NDP MPP Jennifer French (Oshawa) expressed concern that the government has yet to say how much reissuing some 50,000 new plates will cost or who will pay.
“Will this government please stop wrecking things, stop scapegoating, be responsible and stop putting these unsafe, problematic partisan plates on our roads?” said French.
Former Tory MPP Randy Hillier, who now sits as an Independent, shook his head at the snafu.
“Licence plates should be a pretty insignificant aspect of life in the legislature and in the province,” said Hillier (Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston).
“Listen, we’ve known how to make those things for a long time … it shouldn’t be a difficult process to deliver,” he said, wondering how the government didn’t get the results it needed.
“You have to put some thought into what you’re doing, you have to put the criteria in that you’re expecting … if you don’t do that, then don’t be surprised if you get lemons instead of apples.”
Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter (Scarborough-Guildwood) said the government was clearly “rushing” in an effort to rebrand Ontario’s traditional white licence plates in PC blue.
“They got blinded by a desire to have their own branding on everyone’s licence plate. I question the procurement as well, the responsibility for setting the criteria,” said Hunter, a former cabinet minister.
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“It’s the minister and those who report to the minister that bear that responsibility. It is not to the supplier to set the criteria.”
Last Thursday night, 3M issued a statement saying a new plate is being developed and will be given “to the province so that it can then be tested by law enforcement and key stakeholders.”
“We stand behind our products and continue to actively provide solutions to the Ontario government.”