Ontario announces lower fees for Drive Clean
Ontario will lower the fee motorists pay for a Drive Clean emissions test by $5 this spring.
Environment Minister Jim Bradley announced Wednesday that the new price will be $30 plus HST starting April 1 in response to concerns raised by the auditor general that the user fee could be ruled an illegal tax by the courts.
“For the past two years, fees have exceeded the cost of running the program and it is in surplus,” Bradley said. “The new reduced fee, combined with applying the two-year surplus to future costs, will ensure that over time ... Drive Clean brings in only enough revenue to cover the costs of running the program and no more.”
The mandatory emissions test, required every two years for vehicles seven years or older, will stay in place because it continues to have an important role in cutting smog which endangers public health, Bradley said.
Sun Media, in a number of articles this year, pointed out significant problems with the program including false fails and price gouging.
Progressive Conservative MPP Michael Harris said Drive Clean has long served its original purpose to cut polluting vehicle emissions and a fee cut doesn’t go far enough.
“It’s not good enough for Ontario drivers who’ve had to fork over these fees for this unnecessary program for years,” Harris said. “It needs to be scrapped altogether.”
NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson said his party would make changes to Drive Clean to correct problems but believes it still serves a useful purpose.
Bisson said the fee cut is a political move by the Ontario Liberals, when the issues with Drive Clean go much deeper.
“The auditor was pretty clear when the auditor reported that there are number of things that can be done in order to make a program like this actually achieve its goals,” he said. “And there’s some question as to what degree is it doing so.”
Drive Clean was introduced in 1999 as a tail pipe emissions test, but as of 2013 is now an onboard diagnostic test.
According to the 2012 Ontario auditor general report, the vast majority of vehicles pass the test, the worst polluters are exempted and the program has had a declining effect on air quality in the province.
The new diagnostic test has since been found to register false fails with certain types of vehicles, but Bradley said his ministry is ensuring this problem is addressed.
What should the Ontario government do with the Drive Clean program?
Lower the fee
Scrap it entirely