When driver licence fees were cut
Imagine this, if you will, a provincial government actually cutting the cost for one of its services.
Believe it or not – and in light of one-year motor vehicle licence plate sticker renewals having increased in southern ( including Eastern) Ontario from $108 to $120 as of September 1, a 62 per cent spike over the past five years – it really has happened.
‘Ontario reduces auto licence fees by $5.00’ proclaimed a headline on the front page of the Sept. 17, 1937 edition of The News.
“Announcement last week by ( Liberal) Premier Mitchell Hepburn of a straight reduction of $5 in all passenger automobile fees was followed on Tuesday ( September 14) by notice that the new 1938 licence plates for automobiles would be on sale at the reduced rates, Sept. 21st,” the article stated.
Existing fees at the time of the announcement were as follows: $7 for four-cylinder passenger cars; $12 for six-cylinders and up to and including 28 horsepower; $15 for those over 28 HP; eight cylinders up to and including 35 HP – $15; over 35 HP – $20; 12-cylinders – $30 and 16-cylinder vehicles – $40.
The premier added that his government was moving towards a “nominal licence fee, regardless of the horsepower or number of cylinders.”
He had to defend his decision to lower the fees against allegations from the opposition Tories that it was simply a bone thrown to the masses as they prepared to go to the polls on October 6.
“In no way, said the premier, could the announcement be viewed as an election ‘bid for votes’ as Conservative Earl Rowe was inclined to term it because it had been fore- cast March 9 in the budget address,” explained the article.
“He had announced reduced fees for commercial vehicles and forecast that in the event of departmental revenues remaining up, a similar treatment of passenger vehicle fees could be expected by November 1.”
According to Premier Hepburn, the reduction resulted from his “sincere and determined effort” to ease the collective burden of Ontario taxpayers, making use of increasing revenues – highways department earnings had reportedly increased by $8 million since his election in July 1934 – “resulting from the efficiency of administration that was lacking under Tory rule.”
No one will ever know how the province’s estimated 560,000 registered passenger car drivers reacted to the fee reduction, but Hepburn’s Liberals returned to power in the fall of 1937, albeit with a slightly-reduced majority – 65 combined seats between the Grits and their Liberal-Progressive coalition partners – four less than they’d procured in 1934.
The Ontario government reduced plate charges by $5 in 1938