Ontario plans to eliminate enhanced driver's licences used at border crossings
Traffic makes its way to Ambassador Bridge that connects Canada to the United States Windsor Ont. on Friday June 15, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Spowart)
TORONTO -- Ontario is proposing to eliminate an enhanced driver's licence that allows people to enter the United States at land and water border crossings without a passport.
The driver's licence option was introduced in 2009, when the U.S. required passports or other secure identification for anyone crossing into the country by land or sea, but it hasn't had the anticipated uptake.
British Columbia and Manitoba have enhanced driver's licences, and Quebec used to, but phased out the program -- other provinces rejected the idea because it was too costly or there wasn't enough public interest.
Ministry of Transportation spokesman Bob Nichols says about 60,000 people currently have the secure ID out of 10.2 million drivers in Ontario.
The enhanced driver's licence costs an extra $40 above the regular driver's licence fee of $90.
It features a radio-frequency chip that includes a unique number for border staff to use to find personal information that identifies the traveller in a secure database.
The program brings in about $182,000 of revenue each year and eliminating it will save the province about $100,000 in administration costs, Nichols said.
He noted that other options such as NEXUS, FAST and ePassport exist for border crossing documents, and can also be used for air travel.
"Ontario's government is making life easier for people and businesses in the province by delivering simpler, faster, and better government services," he said in a statement.
"Any planned changes will be implemented using a phased approach to ensure minimal impact to cardholders, this includes additional notices about alternative programs (as referenced above), transitioning to those programs and timelines to do so based on EDL card expiry dates."
The government has posted a proposal on its regulatory registry to phase out the program, with comments open until June 23.
A letter will be sent to existing cardholders about any changes to the program, Nichols said.
Anyone with an enhanced driver's licence would automatically be transferred to a regular licence when their card is due for renewal, he said.