When driver li­cence fees were cut

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL News Staff

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

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