• Jonah Brunet

FACT CHECK: Will All Ontario Licence Plates Soon Read “Open for Business”?

Updated: Apr 26, 2019

MISLEADING. According to government officials, Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives are considering “Open for Business” as the new slogan for commercial-vehicle licence plates only.

On March 29, the Queen’s Park bureaus of Global News and the Toronto Star broke the news that the Ford government was considering a change to the slogan that runs along the bottom of Ontario licence plates, currently “Yours to Discover.” One proposed replacement—“Open for Business”—swiftly attracted ire and ridicule from much of the media, the public, and the provincial Opposition. To help social-media users share parodies of the proposed licence-plate redesign, market-research and communications firms Abacus Data and Spark Advocacy even built a make-your-own-licence-plate website.

In an article posted to BlogTO last week, the Toronto news-and-culture website loosely paraphrased Global’s initial report, writing, “the PC government’s slogan ‘Open for Business’ will replace the current ‘Yours to Discover.’” The piece also included tweets from users like @millennialmaman, who wrote, “As a woman, I would not feel comfortable driving around with a license plate displaying ‘Open for Business...’”

In the race to come up with the best, most scathing quip about Ford’s plan for Ontario licence plates, two key pieces of information were left behind: the province has not yet settled on “Open for Business,” and according to PC government officials, that slogan is being considered for black-on-white commercial-vehicle plates only—a category that includes trucks weighing over 4,500 kilograms, buses with a seating capacity of ten or more, and tow trucks. There is still time for the province to decide on a different, less maligned slogan to succeed “Yours to Discover.” Though the slogan on passenger-vehicle licence plates will change, most Ontarians need not worry about having to drive around with “Open for Business” stamped on their cars.

Ford first used the slogan “Open for Business” during his run for premier and continued to use it after his election. It was even featured on twenty-five new “Welcome to Ontario” signs erected along the Canada-US border, a move that made headlines for costing taxpayers over $106,000. Some Ontarians have spoken out against both the border signs and the proposed licence-plate change, alleging that they are misuses of public funds for partisan purposes and that neither will encourage meaningful business investment in the province. In a statement, NDP MPP Catherine Fife referred to the proposed licence-plate change as “blatantly self-serving electioneering.”

Days after Global and the Star published their reports on the proposal, Ford responded to questions from the provincial Opposition about it, defending the plan by insisting that “people across this province want change” and claiming that redesigning Ontario’s licence plates “doesn’t cost a penny to the taxpayers.” The PC government plans to announce a new slogan for blue-on-white passenger licence plates on April 11 along with the provincial budget.