Niagara residents are lining up outside ServiceOntario offices to renew expired driver’s licences, health cards and licence plates.
With the clock ticking, Niagara residents are lining up outside ServiceOntario offices to renew expired driver’s licences, health cards and licence plates.
The provincial government had implemented a grace period for renewals due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as of Feb. 28 the extension will end.
And as the date gets closer, ServiceOntario lines are expected to get longer.
That concern was recently brought up in the Ontario legislature by Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates, who said the Niagara Falls ServiceOntario location is understaffed and overwhelmed.
He spoke about his worry for people who cannot renew online— some seniors, people with disabilities, people without a computer and those new to the province — having to wait in outdoor lines, at times for hours, in winter temperatures.
St. Catharines MPP Jennie Stevens said she is hearing from her own constituents, particularly seniors, that St. Catharines residents are experiencing similar issues, with many worried about the upcoming sticker enforcement date.
“Every resident in St. Catharines really deserves high quality, timely and accessible government services. I don’t care what it is, and that is something that this (Doug) Ford Conservative government is not doing.”
With the unease about the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, Stevens wonders if restrictions and capacity limits within small spaces will impact such offices as ServiceOntario.
Poor planning is a continuing trend, Stevens said, when it comes to Conservative government legislation.
“It’s throwing it out there and people are starting to panic and chaos begins and that’s when we get long lineups.”
In an email, Government and Consumer Services Ministry spokesperson Ellen Samek said the initial extension was put in place back in March 2020 to “provide immediate relief to Ontarians” and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But now its time to make sure all those items are updated.
“We have reinstated the requirements to renew those documents because it’s important that Ontarians have their documents up-to-date for work, access to services and travel, and to keep our roads safe,” she said.
Samek added that in addition to providing online access for residents to renew their documents from home, the government is encouraging anyone who needs to visit a centre in person to make an appointment in advance at Ontario.ca/Appointment.
ServiceOntario offices in St. Catharines and Fonthill said, depending on the time of day, lineup wait times can be a few minutes to an hour, but added that is not unusual.
In Niagara Falls, however, lineups can stretch across the ServiceOntario parking lot and onto Thorold Stone Road. Gates previously said he has asked the province for a second location due to continuing long line issues.
The February deadline for renewals is making things worse, said Stevens.
Stevens said she’d like to see ServiceOntario offices better staffed.