Ontario Driver's Licence

Fall CSANews Issue 72  |  Posted date : Nov 13, 2009.Back to list

As many of you are aware there is a strike at all Drive Test locations throughout the province of Ontario. This strike has halted many services including new driver tests, road tests and drivers licence renewals. The strike began on August 21st, and it was widely thought at that time that it would be settled relatively quickly. Clearly, this is not the case.

As the strike dragged on the CSA became concerned about the potential impact this might have on the winter travel season. Many who were planning to renew their licences prior to departure might not be able to do so. We were also concerned about those members who held licenses that were due to expire while they were enjoying their winter vacations. Some snowbirds that drive large RV's or certain trucks also require a road test for license renewal.  As the strike wore on weeks turned into months and our concerns were no longer hypothetical, we had a real problem on our hands. Now the Ontario government did in fact introduce an open-ended regulation to the Highway Traffic Act that extended the expiry date for all drivers who were unable to renew their licenses due to the strike. Essentially what this meant was that if you were pulled over by the police in Ontario and you had one of these strike-related expired licenses the police were not going to charge you with driving with an expired license. Sounds great, problem solved right? Not for snowbirds.

Let us assume that the strike is soon settled and the license extension regulation will be repealed in relatively short order. While it might prove a minor inconvenience if you are in Ontario it could prove to be a major headache if you are away for the winter. It could potentially leave tens of thousands of Ontario travellers stranded in the United States without a valid driver's license.

It also creates a significant problem if you are pulled over by a U.S. state trooper who probably isn't aware or much less cares that this strike is taking place in Canada. All the officer is going to see is that you are driving with an expired license and there's nothing good for the driver down that road. So what did we do?

The CSA contacted both Ontario Transportation Minister, the Hon. Jim Bradley and Leeds-Grenville MPP (and former Solicitor General) Bob Runciman and shared our concerns with them. We asked Minister Bradley to extend the regulation to a date that would permit all effected Ontario travellers enough time to return to the province without having to choose between interrupting their vacations or driving with an expired license. We also suggested the Ontario government craft some sort of official letter explaining the situation that snowbirds could produce if they were stopped by a police officer while driving outside Ontario.

I am pleased to report that because of our involvement, Minister Bradley has done just that. He has extended the deadline to July 1, 2010, a date that should provide everybody more than enough time to get home and settled with their current license. The ministry has also contacted jurisdictional authorities across Canada and the United States advising them of the situation.

Finally, the ministry has updated its website to address many of the specific concerns of Ontario drivers travelling to the United States. An official letter (you may produce if stopped by a police officer) from the ministry regarding the extension of licence validity may be downloaded at the website of the Ministry of Transportation.

On behalf of the Canadian Snowbird Association I would like to thank Ontario's Transportation Minister, the Hon. Jim Bradley for listening and acting on our concerns. I would also like to thank Leeds-Grenville MPP Bob Runciman for lending support to our position. It's gratifying when we can work with government and affect positive change that benefits our members.

Related links
Download Letter
Ministry of Transportation