Please note: This op-ed column was written in February 2018. For current information on obtaining or renewing license plates in New Brunswick, please visit the government’s Motor Vehicle Registration website.
I cannot tell you my license plate number.
I can tell you the Nova Scotia plate on the 1984 Ford truck we sold when I was in elementary school. I can tell you the Alberta plate I had on my first car when I moved to Calgary. But I have had to try to remember so many New Brunswick plates in the nine years I’ve lived here, I have no capacity left to memorize the latest plate we paid for this year.
We’re on our fifth vehicle since moving here in 2009. There was the car we came with, then its replacement, which met its end in a snowy ditch one day. There was the shiny new truck that had to give way to a minivan when we suddenly became a family of five instead of three. This year we traded in our out-of-warranty car for a new model. That’s five sets of numbers and letters to remember. Ten plates to purchase.
I don’t claim to understand or even know much about the internal workings of Service New Brunswick and the vehicle registration system, but I know as the end consumer, I much preferred the process in other provinces which allowed me to keep my plates when I changed vehicles – cutting down on all those details to remember. I would also think it’s the more logical way to track things like unpaid parking tickets and other driving infractions. Then, there’s the financial question.
I often wonder about the costs we as New Brunswickers incur, paying for two plates again and again and again. The plates themselves don’t seem to be that expensive, based on the fact a replacement in Nova Scotia costs just $5.80 – and New Brunswick plates are manufactured in Amherst. And cutting down to one isn’t going to change the amount of clerical work associated with the vehicle registration, so I don’t see any direct savings to me as a customer if we drop to one. But as a taxpayer, I see an opportunity for efficiency.
There are more than half-a-million vehicles registered in New Brunswick today. That’s half-a-million plates we could have NOT purchased as a province if we switched to one (which most people will agree is the most aesthetically pleasing option, anyway, and seems to work just fine for policing in other provinces). Then think if we reduced it to not having to buy a new plate each time you bought a vehicle, but only if you didn’t already have a plate. It might only be $10,000 a year we’d save as a province, but there are budget line items for $10,000 that we could cover with that money.
Our province is coming up last in the country for economic growth. We need big innovations and big ideas to deal with that reality, but we also need to remember the impact many little changes can make. This is one small item, a second license plate for your vehicle. That one item that likely costs less than a dollar adds up. How many more little items like that could we find in each government department?
There are times when duplication is worth the investment, like when a surgeon asks you the same readiness questions that the anesthesiologist and the nurse already did. That repetition improves the system. And it doesn’t cost additional money. Having the province purchase two plates for every vehicle does cost us – and it doesn’t need to. Everyone around us – Nova Scotia, PEI, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec – all operate with one license plate.