TORONTO — Ontario Hwy. 407 users who don’t pay their bills will not be able to get their licence plates renewed, a provincial court has declared.
407 ETR — the consortium that owns the 108-km private highway just north of Toronto — announced that the Ontario Divisional Court has issued a unanimous decision ordering the Ontario Registrar of Motor Vehicles to comply with the « statutory obligation » to deny vehicle permits to individuals who refuse to pay their 407 ETR tolls.
In their ruling, the Honourable Mr. Justice James D. Carnwath, Madam Justice Joan L. Lax and Madam Justice Katherine E. Swinton ruled that « the Registrar had no discretion to refuse plate denial » and therefore ordered the Registrar to begin denying plates, the highway operators said.
Plate denial is used for 407 ETR because it is an all-electronic, barrier-free highway with no traditional tollbooths. Therefore, vehicles are not physically prevented from using the highway — even if a customer’s account is significantly overdue.
The company had started to send these plates for denial notices in August 2003, but the Registrar had refused to act.
407 ETR says that plate denial was in place while the highway was owned and operated by the previous
Ontario government and the practice was a key part of the 1998 legislation allowing the sale of the highway to the company.
As a result of today’s decision, says ETR, the Registrar will deny the plates of over 4,000 individuals who used the highway but, to date, have not paid.
« We have tried to resolve this issue amicably for over two years, so it is unfortunate that we had to go to court to finally get the Registrar to uphold the law, » said Enrique Diaz-Rato, 407 ETR President and Chief Executive Officer.
The highway operator has been tangled in a bitter legal dispute with the Ontario Liberal government ever since the McGuinty regime was elected in 2003.
Since then, the government has lost a series of court challenges, in which the Liberals have attempted to limit the 407 ETR’s authority over toll rates.
However, the government has not yet indicated it will throw in the towel, even after the latest court decision in August. That ruling stated that contract conditions allow the highway owners to raise tolls as long as traffic doesn’t fall below 2002 levels.
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