Volume 94, Issue 68

Wednesday, January 24, 2001


Editorial Board 2000-2001

Private licensing should raise public concern

Editorial Cartoon

Private licensing should raise public concern

The Ontario government introduced Bill 137 on Nov. 2 in a move to privatize driver testing. With a Feb. 2 deadline fast approaching for submissions from potential providers, concern has developed over the quality of road testing and private information getting into the wrong hands.

Privatization will make bribery more common, and driving standards will decrease, some argue. But bribery has occurred both in private registries and in the Ontario public registry. The same government that regulates the quality of testing now intends to oversee testing in the private sector and must attend to the problem of bribery.

The criteria for choosing a company to carry out testing is also a concern. Potential providers have been asked to submit their "applications" from which the government will decide which company will receive the contract. Regular inspections will be performed to ensure standards are kept, but in between inspections, road safety might not necessarily be at optimum conditions.

Exactly what are the benefits of privatizing driver testing? The government believes customer service will improve – those nine-month waits between tests will shorten. But since when did the government care so much about customer satisfaction? Maybe this is a thinly veiled attempt to avoid the growing demands of union members. The transfer would affect 900 driving examiners, all members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

Ensuring public satisfaction involves more than avoiding lengthy waits for testing. All areas of concern must be addressed, including issues of privacy. Will the distribution of personal information provided at the time of testing be sufficiently regulated? Private registries elsewhere in the country have turned the market of personal information into a lucrative business, a business which some fear could result in fraud or fake ID.

Currently, driver examiners are governed by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, binding them to secrecy and preventing them from cashing in on the public's info. It is doubtful that under the private system examiners would effectively be prohibited from selling personal information.

Another major concern is the danger of a quasi-monopoly. If only one company is responsible for driver testing, prices may soar or drivers may be constantly failed. Will pricing be regulated and to what extent?

Despite some minor drawbacks, the benefits of the current system are numerous. The Ministry of Transportation is making money and the government, notorious for mismanagement, has decided to cut an area that is doing more good than harm. No matter how advantageous it seems, privacy and safety should never become a business.

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Copyright The Gazette 2000