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News   September 29, 2017   by Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

Ontario testing remote Drive Clean program


Ontario drivers could soon get their vehicle emissions tested remotely.

A $30 fee was scrapped in last year’s provincial budget for the much-maligned Drive Clean program that tests emissions every two years on cars and light-duty trucks over seven years old, but critics have called for the program to be scrapped entirely.

Ontario’s Liberal government is now proposing a pilot project that would allow testing remotely through on-board diagnostics.

“The goal of the pilot would be to improve customer convenience and to offer more choices to the public when it comes to vehicle emissions reductions,” environment ministry spokesman Gary Wheeler said in a statement.

Drive Clean test providers could gather emissions data remotely using a device that is plugged into — and remains in — a vehicle’s on-board diagnostic port. The information gathered would be sent electronically to the province when the vehicle is due for a test, Wheeler said.

The government said data gathered will be used only for the purpose of emissions test evaluations, fraud prevention and providing an emissions test result.

Participating vehicle owners could get the device by visiting a test centre. Test providers could also distribute the devices by mail or team up with a retail location. The tester could also use a handheld emissions testing device on site, Wheeler said.

That seems “perhaps not overly convenient at the end of the day,” said Progressive Conservative transportation critic Michael Harris.

“Drive Clean has outlived its usefulness and should be scrapped altogether,” he said.

But the government still believes it provides a valuable service.

“Drive Clean contributes significantly to the reduction of emissions that cause poor air quality, cutting emissions from vehicles by about one-third and ultimately contributing to cleaner air,” Wheeler said.

“Drive Clean has outlived its usefulness and should be scrapped altogether.”

– Progressive Conservative transportation critic Michael Harris

Harris said, however, that he is “leery” whenever the Liberal government rolls out a new software program.

A number of digital systems the province has embarked upon in recent years, such as the Social Assistance Management System, eHealth, a Court Information Management System and a Child Protection Information Network have either been much delayed, come in well over budget and/or needed to be scrapped entirely.

Drive Clean has previously come under fire for amassing multi-million-dollar surpluses, even though it was supposed to be a revenue neutral program. Ontario’s former auditor general warned in 2012 that could land the province in legal hot water, because it’s a user fee, not a tax.

Eliminating the Drive Clean fee costs the province $60 million a year, the government has said.

For the pilot, which is expected to start some time in the fall and run for one year, the government will pay accredited remote testers $10 per pass result, according to notes of a ministry conference call obtained by The Canadian Press.

But Wheeler could not provide an estimate of how much the pilot will cost to run, as the ministry doesn’t yet know how much interest there will be.


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6 Comments » for Ontario testing remote Drive Clean program
  1. ScottM says:

    “Drive Clean contributes significantly to the reduction of emissions that cause poor air quality, cutting emissions from vehicles by about one-third and ultimately contributing to cleaner air,” Wheeler said.

    Really? Prove it! Bunch of ballony and nothing more than an on-going money grab. BC has already scraped it. More and more of newer generation cars are on the road providing way better emissions controls. And I don’t trust big sister aka Wynn to not gather more data then just the emissions.

    It’s time for the people to push back and stop the idiocy we call the provincial government.

  2. Bob Ward says:

    There is in fact merit in the program. It has made a lot of polluter vehicles get repaired which also improves fuel economy. Vehicles need to be maintained properly in order to pass the emission test. The Drive Clean program is successful. There are too many vehicles being driven with the emission system inoperative. This is a problem. Yes the newer vehicles do run better and the e test is a formality but it is a necessary program. Ontario has the largest number of registered vehicles in Canada and the highest population so it is important to protect our environment. If the Drive Clean program got abolished Ontario would become a dumping ground for polluter vehicles. Currently the etest is at no cost for purposes of license renewal. The latest change for ownership transfer is a joke to say the least.

  3. Shawn Greenberg says:

    Let’s do more frequent safety inspections like other provinces and make no CEL as part of the requirements, this will take care of the issues. And don’t give me the cheating complaint, because this will never change.
    As far as the E-Test now being free, it is costing us $60M tax dollars a year. Nothing is free.
    As to the dongle nonsense, there is no way on earth I would ever attach a Govt monitored device to my car.

  4. Conal D says:

    The only way the E test system is COSTING the government money is if they are NOT using the $0.05/liter increase that they implemented Jan 2017 to cover the “free” tests. Now EVERYONE in Ontario, not just the owners of cars 7 years or older in the golden horseshoe area, are paying into this system.

  5. Ratchet says:

    The program has done what it had to. It is now outdated as we enter an era of electric and self diagnosing vehicles.
    At this point it has become a 100% tax grab, not to mention a double dip into the driver’s pocket as he pays the extra .05 at the pump.
    At best it should be optional and free.

  6. Ron says:

    Being in the business for 40 Years – I have never seen such a waste of money. The whole program is a joke and it’s just a royal pain in the butt. I have rarely seen any fails – and when I say rarely – It’s hard to remember – but we see cars every day! I am a firm believer in more safety checks on cars – there are some pretty unsafe cars running around!!!

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