Premier Doug Ford was personally involved in choosing the illegible double-blue Ontario licence plates that his government is now scrapping, the Star has learned.
Progressive Conservative sources, speaking on background in order to discuss internal conversations, said that last year Ford was presented with six new designs to replace the traditional white plates in use since 1973.
Four of the proposed designs were white and two were blue.
Insiders said the premier selected the two-tone prototype that has been likened to a Q-tip box.
On Friday, the Star revealed the Tories are abandoning the double-blue plate in favour of a revamped white design amid concerns about visibility in certain lighting conditions.
The premier’s office declined to say whether the forthcoming white plate, which will feature a blue swoosh and the slogan “A Place To Grow,” was one of the proposals the premier rejected last year.
“As we stated previously, we are not commenting on speculation. The final design will be made public soon,” Kayla Iafelice, Ford’s executive director of communications, said Monday.
It is expected to be released next week — in the meantime white plates with the familiar slogan “Yours To Discover” are being issued. The 71,000 motorists with the defective blue plates will get them replaced free of charge.
Consumer and Government Services Minister Lisa Thompson said Monday she is “very pleased at the manner in which our government is focused on delivering an enhanced plate in a timely, secure and efficient way.”
Thompson said the government and manufacturer, 3M Canada, are “working diligently around the clock on our enhanced plate.”
The Tories say 3M is footing the tab for the fix. A nondisclosure agreement has been signed between the company and the government concealing the actual cost.
Told that Ford himself had helped select the double-blue design, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath shook her head.
“I’m not surprised at all. There was this sense that this decision was made inside the premier’s office directly by the premier,” said Horwath.
“The entire fiasco is …absolutely on him. It’s absolutely in line with how this government conducts itself,” she said.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca, in his first day at Queen’s Park since winning the leadership on Saturday, said the debacle exposes the “incompetence” of the PC government.
“There was nobody in Ontario that was calling out for a massive redesign of the licence plates that we had,” said Del Duca, a former transportation minister in Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government.
“Premier Ford and their team decided to go down that path — obviously it turned out very, very poorly. It goes right to the heart of the issue: their incompetence,” he said.
The controversy has certainly struck a nerve with the premier.
Last week, Ford blasted the media when questioned about the screw-up.
“You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m shocked you’re even asking me that … I know the media wants to pound on little things. We’re looking at the big vision,” he said on March 2.
“Let’s make no mistake about it, I was frustrated, the minister was frustrated,” added Ford, who ran his family’s label-printing business before entering politics.
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“Our minister has responded, the vendor has responded. The vendor had an issue. We’re correcting it. There’s zero expense to the taxpayers.”
As with the double-blue plates unveiled with much fanfare in last April’s provincial budget, the new white plates will be flat unlike the embossed plates with raised letters and numbers now in use.
The Tories are making the change because flat plates, which are in use in many American states, are cheaper to manufacture and are less prone to peeling. There have long been complaints about the paint flaking off the current plates.